Repo Commentary-04/01/21





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mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l3:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l4 {mso-list-id:206182516; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1028091594 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l4:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l4:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l4:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l4:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l4:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l4:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l4:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l4:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l4:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l5 {mso-list-id:246428357; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-177726256 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l5:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l5:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l5:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l5:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l5:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l5:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l5:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l5:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l5:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l6 {mso-list-id:255948167; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:1014366508 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l6:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l6:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l6:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l6:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l6:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l6:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l6:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l6:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l6:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l7 {mso-list-id:298851753; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:629057344 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l7:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l7:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l7:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l7:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l7:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l7:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l7:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l7:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l7:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l8 {mso-list-id:373502968; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-125766304 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l8:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:40.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l8:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:76.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @list l8:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:112.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l8:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:148.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l8:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:184.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @list l8:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:220.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l8:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:256.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l8:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:292.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @list l8:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:328.65pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l9 {mso-list-id:391346297; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1068871560 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715;} @list l9:level1 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l9:level2 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l9:level3 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l9:level4 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l9:level5 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l9:level6 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l9:level7 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l9:level8 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l9:level9 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l10 {mso-list-id:465316200; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:1489925076 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l10:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:40.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l10:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:76.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l10:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:112.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l10:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:148.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l10:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:184.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l10:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:220.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l10:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:256.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l10:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:292.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l10:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:328.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l11 {mso-list-id:470175817; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1424318960 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l11:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l11:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l11:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l11:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l11:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l11:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l11:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l11:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l11:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l12 {mso-list-id:513805310; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1579889698 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l12:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:40.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l12:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:76.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l12:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:112.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l12:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:148.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l12:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:184.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l12:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:220.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l12:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:256.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l12:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:292.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l12:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:328.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l13 {mso-list-id:647058511; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:1192120772 -1758567400 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l13:level1 {mso-level-start-at:0; mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:•; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; mso-ansi-font-size:16.0pt; font-family:”Helvetica Neue”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @list l13:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l13:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l13:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l13:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l13:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l13:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l13:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l13:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l14 {mso-list-id:655648075; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:1910900010 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l14:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l14:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l14:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l14:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l14:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l14:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l14:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l14:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l14:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l15 {mso-list-id:661468776; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-450613036 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l15:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l15:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l15:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l15:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l15:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l15:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l15:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l15:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l15:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l16 {mso-list-id:672807283; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:1625441320 -1758567400 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l16:level1 {mso-level-start-at:0; mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:•; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; mso-ansi-font-size:16.0pt; font-family:”Helvetica Neue”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @list l16:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l16:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l16:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l16:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l16:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l16:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l16:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l16:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l17 {mso-list-id:706829947; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-654903680 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l17:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l17:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l17:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l17:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l17:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l17:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l17:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l17:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l17:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l18 {mso-list-id:798304707; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1173174908 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l18:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:45.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l18:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:81.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l18:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:117.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l18:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:153.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l18:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:189.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l18:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:225.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l18:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:261.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l18:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:297.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l18:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:333.0pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l19 {mso-list-id:1001349736; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-355171904 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l19:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l19:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l19:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l19:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l19:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l19:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l19:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l19:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l19:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l20 {mso-list-id:1038625445; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1509030608 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l20:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l20:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l20:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l20:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l20:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l20:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l20:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l20:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l20:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l21 {mso-list-id:1057437590; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1436895860 -1758567400 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l21:level1 {mso-level-start-at:0; mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:•; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; mso-ansi-font-size:16.0pt; font-family:”Helvetica Neue”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @list l21:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l21:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l21:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l21:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l21:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l21:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l21:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l21:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l22 {mso-list-id:1073545562; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:806672782 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l22:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l22:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l22:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l22:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l22:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l22:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l22:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l22:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l22:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l23 {mso-list-id:1186210015; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1411760118 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l23:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l23:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l23:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l23:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l23:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l23:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l23:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l23:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l23:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l24 {mso-list-id:1239824911; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:967862892 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l24:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l24:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l24:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l24:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l24:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l24:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l24:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l24:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l24:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l25 {mso-list-id:1512454478; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:999868938 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l25:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l25:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l25:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l25:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l25:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l25:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l25:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l25:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l25:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l26 {mso-list-id:1763725462; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:908349380 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l26:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l26:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l26:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l26:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l26:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l26:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l26:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l26:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l26:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l27 {mso-list-id:1811366265; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-293425292 -1758567400 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l27:level1 {mso-level-start-at:0; mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:•; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; mso-ansi-font-size:16.0pt; font-family:”Helvetica Neue”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @list l27:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l27:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l27:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l27:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l27:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l27:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l27:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l27:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l28 {mso-list-id:1842617117; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:934031170 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l28:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l28:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l28:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l28:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l28:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l28:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l28:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l28:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l28:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l29 {mso-list-id:1944219017; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-694665046 67698693 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l29:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l29:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l29:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l29:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l29:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l29:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l29:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l29:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l29:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l30 {mso-list-id:1962148748; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:1588209092 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l30:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l30:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l30:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l30:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l30:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l30:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l30:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l30:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l30:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l31 {mso-list-id:2056544500; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-1991236944 67698693 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l31:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l31:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l31:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l31:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l31:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l31:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l31:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l31:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l31:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l32 {mso-list-id:2062168213; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-207472564 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693 67698689 67698691 67698693;} @list l32:level1 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:58.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l32:level2 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:94.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l32:level3 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:130.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l32:level4 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:166.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l32:level5 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:202.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l32:level6 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:238.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l32:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:274.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l32:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:310.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:”Courier New”;} @list l32:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:346.5pt; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l33 {mso-list-id:2076121780; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:937729250 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715;} @list l33:level1 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l33:level2 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l33:level3 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l33:level4 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l33:level5 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l33:level6 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l33:level7 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l33:level8 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l33:level9 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l34 {mso-list-id:2103141626; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:1432016700 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715;} @list l34:level1 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l34:level2 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; 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It is Day 386 (on 04/01) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20).
 
 
I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. New COVID-19 cases in the US dropped to the lowest rate in 3 months. Vaccine distribution began in the US on 12/14/20 and more than 145 million vaccinations have been administered (as of 3/30/21). We have fully vaccinated over 52.4 million people out of a population of about 330 million. However, we are nowhere close to herd immunity, which would be about 70-90% of people vaccinated. The vaccine administration rate in the US has exceeded 2 million shots per day. I received my first of two shots of the Pfizer vaccine on 3/20/21. My second shot is scheduled 4/10/21. I am very happy to receive them.
 
 
 
 



I have designed and crafted an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here:  https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course.
 
 
 
So, I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry. 
·     I am teaching the above Pierpoint Finance Academy course on Repo Fundamentals.
·     I am consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans. 
·     I am sharing my opinion and expertise with industry periodicals in articles, like the recent Global Investor Group/ISF article.
·     I am consulting with an electronic trading platform.
·     I am participating as the Repo expert for the Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC)- training/networking/brainstorming/question-answering group, Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC), and subsequent forums.
·     I  have also just been asked to be a panel moderator for a virtual conference being held by Securities Finance Times in May.
 
Kidwell Consultants, LLC is available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  
 
 
My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better!
 
 
Holidays or Events (04/01):
 
 
•      April Fools’ Day
•      Assyrian New Year
•      Boomer Bonus Day
•      Fossil Fools Day
•      International Edible Book Festival
•      International Fun at Work Day (not to be confused with April Fools’ Day
•      International Tatting Day
•      Lupus Alert Day
•      National Burrito Day
•      National Jump in Muddy Puddles Day
•      National Trombone Players Day
•      National One Cent Day
•      National Sourdough Bread Day
•      National Love for our Children Day
•      St. Stupid Day
•      Reading is Funny Day
•      Sorry Charlie Day
•      Poetry and Creative Mind Day
•      US Air Force Academy Day
•      Odisha Day (Odisha India)
•      Arbor Day (Tanzania)
•      Civil Service Day (Thailand)
•      Cyprus National Day (Cyprus)
•      Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday, just before Easter)
•      National Atheist’s Day (kind of ironic with the 3 main religions having holidays)
 
For those who celebrate, Happy Passover (which Judaism is in the midst of) and Happy Easter (which Christians celebrate this Sunday). Ramadan (Islam) is coming up as well, so the 3 main religions are represented with holidays.
 
Some Famous People Born on (04/01):
 
 
•      1220-Emperor Go-Saga of Japan
•      1282-Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
•      1640-Georg Mohr, Danish mathematician and academic
•      1815-Otto von Bismarck, German lawyer and 1st Chancellor of the German Empire
•      1873-Sergei Rachmaninoff, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor
•      1883-Lon Chaney, American actor, director, and screenwriter
•      1909-Eddy Duchin, American pianist and bandleader
•      1929-Jane Powell, American actress, singer, and dancer
•      1932-Debbie Reynolds, Scottish-Irish-American actress, singer, and dancer
•      1939-Ali MacGraw, American model and actress
•      1939-Phil Niekro, American baseball player and manager
•      1948-Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican singer and musician
•      1955-Don Hasselbeck, American football player and sportscaster
•      1961-Susan Boyle, Scottish singer
 
Daily Weird Facts:
 
 
Finland is the world’s happiest country, according to the 2019 World Happiness Report.
 
 
 
Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:
 
 
 
“I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.”—Denzel Washington
 
 
 
 
Currency and Commodity Markets:
 
Oil prices closed at:
 
$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18
$47.66/barrel on 12/23/18
$48.63 on 01/07/19
$73.77/barrel on 4/29
$53.50/barrel on 10/2
$59.10/barrel on 12/8
$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20
$35.92/barrel on 3/11
$27.15/barrel on 3/18
$24.90/barrel on 4/01
$31.80/barrel on 4/12
$28.31/barrel on 4/17
$20.03/barrel on 4/27
$26.78/barrel on 5/04
$30.39/barrel on 5/09
$35.69/barrel on 5/20
$50.70/barrel on 01/04/21
$56.04/barrel on 01/13
$60.07/barrel on 02/16
$66.34/barrel on 03/05
$61.30/barrel on 04/01
 
 
OPEC shows confidence in economic recovery, as it raises oil supply. Oil prices have rallied well past pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station fallen about 10 cents in the past 2 weeks, to $2.69/gallon. There are some stations in the area that are charging as much as $3.39/gallon.
 
 
 
One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates). I did decide to trim this running list to just a few dates:
 
112.20 on 12/24/18
102.96 on 12/06/19
104.80 on 02/07/20
99.23 on 03/11/20
103.55 on 12/16/20
103.90 on 01/13/21
105.47 on 02/04/21
106.00 on 02/16/21
108.31 on 03/05/21
110.63 on 04/01/21
 
 
One Euro was trading on:
 
12/24/18 at $1.1426
12/06/19 at $1.1688
03/11 at $1.1937
05/04 at $1.0903
12/16/20 at $1.2196
01/04 at $1.2246
01/13 at $1.2156
02/04 at $1.2625
02/16 at $1.210
03/05 at $1.1915
04/01 at $1.1774
 
 
 
One British Pound was trading on:
 
12/24/18 at $1.2655
12/06/19 at $1.3819
02/07 at $1.3574
03/11 at $1.354
03/18 at $1.2665
03/24 at $1.2231
12/16/20 at $1.3494
01/04 at $1.3571
01/13 at $1.3635
02/04 at $1.3659
02/16 at $1.3903
03/05 at $1.3841
04/01 at $1.3832
 
 
 
One USD versus the CAD at:
 
1.3442 on 12/24/18
1.2530 on 12/06/19
1.2390 on 01/17/20
1.3020 on 03/11
1.3540 on 03/18
1.2752 on 12/16/20
1.2787 on 01/04
1.2703 on 01/13
1.2837 on 02/04
1.2691 on 02/16
1.2659 on 03/05
1.2548 on 04/01
 
 
For Gold prices, I have decided to put this in list form, but maintain a trimmed list of dates with prices.
 
10/02/19 $1498.70/ounce
03/11/20 $1,641/ounce
07/27/20 a record $1,944.71/ounce
11/10/20 $1,880.30
11/30/20 $1,774.00
12/16/20 $1,858.20
01/04/21 a new record $1,948.00
01/13/21 $1,848.70
02/04/21 $1,796.20
02/16/21 $1,793.60
03/05/21 $1,698.70
04/01/21 $1,730.00
 
 
Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):
  
$8,185.21 on 7/25/18
$6,350 on 10/5/18
$3,774.97 on 12/24/18
$3,774.97 on 01/07/19
$3,598.90 on 01/16
$3,421.10 on 02/06
$3,826.44 on 02/26
$8,100.00 on 05/16
$7,215.79 on 05/17
$9,088.59 on 06/18
$11,919.30 on 06/25
$9,790.37 on 07/24
$10,183.90 on 09/10
$8,235.46 on 10/02
$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20
$9,793.18 on 02/07/20
$7,871.60 on 03/11/20
$5,216.64 on 03/18/20
$6,728.03 on 03/24/20
$6,646.60 on 03/27/20
$6,443.44 on 03/31/20
$6,908.13 on 04/12/20
$7,128.45 on 04/19/20
$7,748.29 on 04/27/20
$8,775.36 on 05/04/20
$8,771.73 on 05/10/20
$9,525.54 on 05/20/20
$9,794.46 on 06/04/20
$10,849.00 on 07/27/20
$15,160.90 on 11/10/20
$19,411.50 on 11/30/20
$20,665.10 on 12/16/20
$31,592.20 on 01/04/21
$36,433.00 on 01/13/21
$36,607.50 on 02/04/21
$48,526.90 on 02/16/21
$58,093.71 on 02/21/21
$43,170.01 on 02/28/21
$49,207.43 on 03/05/21
$58,979.60 on 04/01/21
 
 
 
After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  But, Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. Crypto firms got more funding last quarter than in all of 2020. The price of Bitcoin fell about $2,000 within a 5-minute period on Wednesday, which prompted liquidations of some long positions amounting to an estimated $600 million. Analysts still believe a target of $60,000 for April is still possible.
 
 
Brexit:
 
 
The
 
 
Global Financial News:
 
 
Susan Estes points out that concerns are growing over ETFs that may have illiquid holdings and the ability of investors to differentiate those ETFs from ones who have securities which are easy to trade. China has approved the merger of two chemical giants, creating a $150 billion company, paving the way for another supersize state-run enterprise and the potential for China to become a dominant global player. The SEC has opened a preliminary investigation into Bill Hwang over the margin call calamity that’s still roiling Wall Street. Archegos made a series of wrong-way wagers that prompted broker/dealers to liquidate its positions. They ultimately faced margin calls that they could not meet, prompting banks, like Goldman Sachs, to liquidate positions through a series of block trades. One of Credit Suisse’s biggest shareholders said losses from the Archegos Capital crisis could lead to sweeping changes. Credit Suisse and Nomura, which served as brokers for Hwang’s bets and lent him huge amounts of money, are now warning shareholders that they face “significant” losses. Unlike others, Deutsche Bank revealed it dodged a $4 billion bullet in one huge deal, helping it emerge unscathed from the debacle. One of the main issues at hand is regulatory oversight, as Hwang was able to amass tens of billions of dollars in these wrong-way stock bets, while not disclosing his positions to other market participants, by entering into Total Return swaps transactions with banks. TRS are often used in place of Repo. Those swaps allow investors to get exposure to price moves without actually buying shares of the companies. Also, because Hwang operated out of a family office, he was exempt from registering with the SEC or filing a confidential document with the agency, a form PF, that other asset managers, private-equity firms, and hedge funds must file with the SEC. The riskiest US junk bonds are now outperforming just about everything. Overall, Q1 figures show that in general there was stronger risk appetite among large and small investors. Wall Street’s $100 billion SPAC boom is rearranging the league tables, as Citi jumps to No.1 and UBS falls out of top 10. China’s commodities binge has caused a major problem for the US spending plan in the future, as China got to raw materials first.
 
 
US Market News:
 
 
US jobless claims rose, as the labor market recovery remains choppy. At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. It has just backed off a little from its record high cracking of 33,000.  
 
Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (this is the next list I intend to trim to just important dates):
 
 
03/31/21  32,981.55
03/05/21   31,496.30
02/16/21  31,522.75
02/03/21  30,723.60
01/13/21   31,060.47
12/31/20   30,606.48
12/15/20   30,199.31
12/01/20   29,823.92
11/09/20   29,157.97
07/24/20   26,469.89
07/23/20 26,652.33
07/22/20   27,005.84
07/21/20   26,840.40
07/20/20   26,680.87
07/17/20   26,671.95
07/16/20   26,734.71
07/15/20   26,870.10
07/14/20   26,642.59
07/13/20   26,085.80
07/10/20   26,075.30
07/09/20   25,706.09
07/08/20   26,067.28
07/07/20   25,890.18
07/06/20   26,287.03
07/02/20   25,827.36
07/01/20   25,734.97
06/30/20   25,812.88
06/29/20   25,595.80
06/26/20   25,015.55
06/25/20   25,745.60
06/24/20   25,445.94
06/23/20   26,156.10
06/22/20   26,024.96
06/19/20   25,871.46
06/18/20   26,080.10
06/17/20   26,119.61
06/16/20   26,289.98
06/15/20   25,763.16
06/12/20   25,605.54
06/11/20   25,128.17
06/10/20   26,989.99
06/09/20   27,272.30
06/08/20   27,572.44
06/05/20   27,110.98
6/04/20     26,281.82
6/03/20     26,269.89
6/02/20     25,742.65
6/01/20     25,475.02
5/29/20     25,383.11
5/28/20     25,400.64
5/27/20     25,548.27
5/26/20     24,995.11
5/22/20     24,465.16
5/21/20     24,474.12
5/20/20     24,575.90
5/19/20     24,206.86
5/18/20     24,597.37
5/15/20     23,685.42
5/14/20     23,625.34
5/13/20     23,247.57
5/12/20     23,764.76
5/11/20     24,221.99
5/08/20     24,331.32
5/07/20     23,875.89
5/06/20     23,664.64
5/05/20     23,883.09
5/04/20     23,749.76
5/01/20     23,723.69
4/30/20     24,345.72
4/29/20     24,633.86
4/28/20     24,101.55
4/27/20     24,133.78
4/24/20     23,775.27
4/23/20     23,515.26
4/22/20     23,475.82
4/21/20     23,018.88
4/20/20     23,650.44
4/17/20     24,242.49
4/16/20     23,537.68
4/15/20     23,504.35
4/14/20     23,949.76
4/13/20     23,390.77
4/10/20     market closed
4/09/20    23,719.37
4/08/20     23,433.57
4/07/20     22,653.86
4/06/20     22,679.99
4/03/20     21,052.53
4/02/20     21,413.44
4/01/20     20,943.51
3/31/20     21,917.16
3/30/20     22,327.48
3/27/20     21,636.78
3/26/20     22,552.17
3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91
3/23/20    18,591.93
3/20/20    19,173.98
3/19/20    20,087.19
3/18/20     19,898.92
3/17/20     21,237.38
3/16/20     20,188.52
3/13/20     23,185.62
3/12/20     21,200.62
3/11/20     23,553.22
3/10/20     25,018.16
3/09/20     23,851.02
3/06/20     25,864.78
3/05/20     26,121.28
3/04/20     27,090.86
3/03/20     25,917.41
3/02/20     26,703.32
2/28/20     25,409.36
2/27/20     25,766.64
2/26/20     26,957.59
2/25/20     27,081.36
2/24/20     27,960.80
2/21/20     28,992.41
2/20/20     29,219.98
2/19/20     29,348.03
2/12/20     29,551.42 record high
 
 
 
 
S&P 500 has closed on (trimmed list):
 
10/5/18 at 2,885.58
12/26/18 at 2,467.70
12/06/19 at 3,145.91
02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high
03/23/20 at 2,237.40
12/15/20 at 3,647.49
01/13/21 at 3,809.84
02/03/21 at 3,830.17
02/16/21 at 3,923.59
03/05/21 at 3,841.94
03/31/21 at 3,972.89
 
 
S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, then backed off, then shot higher again to a new record 02/16.  It has continued to be up at new record highs. Today, S&P 500 surged past a record 4,000.
 
 
Nasdaq closed on (trimmed list):
 
10/5/18 at 7,788.45
12/26/18 at 6,554.36
12/06/19 at 8,656.07
02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high
03/23/20 at 6,860.67
06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!
12/15/20 at 12.505.06
01/13/21 at 13,128.95
02/03/21 at 13,610.54
02/16/21 at 14,047.50  new record high
03/05/21 at 12,920.15
03/31/21 at 13,246.87
 
The US Treasury market’s steepening has continued, as long duration securities rise in yield, while the short-end is still pinned.
 
 
2 YEAR NOTES closed on (trimmed list):
 
10/5/18 at 2.88%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
12/06/19 at 1.61%
02/06/20 at 1.44%
03/11/20 at 0.50%
03/17/20 at 0.47%
03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!
05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low
07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low
12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!
01/04/21 at 0.11%
01/13/21 at 0.14%
02/03/21 at 0.11%
02/16/21 at 0.11%
03/05/21 at 0.14%
03/31/21 at 0.16%
 
 
3 YEAR NOTES closed on:
 
10/5/18 at 2.99%
12/18/18 at 2.64%
01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)
12/06/19 at 1.64%
02/06/20 at 1.43%
03/11/20 at 0.58%
03/17/20 at 0.54%
03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!
05/10/20 at 0.21%
07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!
11/09/20 at 0.25%
12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!
01/04/21 at 0.16% record low!
01/13/21 at 0.22%
02/03/21 at 0.17%
02/16/21 at 0.17%
03/05/21 at 0.32%
03/31/21 at 0.35%
 
 
 
5 YEAR NOTES closed on:
 
10/5/18 at 3.07%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
12/06/19 at 1.67%
02/07/20 at 1.45%
03/11/20 at 0.66%
03/17/20 at 0.56%
03/23/20 at 0.38%
03/26/20 at 0.51%
03/31/20 at 0.37%
07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!
12/15/20 at 0.37%
01/04/21 at 0.36%
01/13/21 at 0.48%
02/03/21 at 0.46%
02/16/21 at 0.42%
03/05/21 at 0.79%
03/31/21 at 0.92%
 
 
7 YEAR NOTES closed on:
 
10/5/18 at 3.18%
12/18/18 at 2.74%
12/06/19 at 1.78%
02/06/20 at 1.56%
03/11/20 at 0.78%
03/17/20 at 0.91%
03/23/20 at 0.63%
03/26/20 at 0.72%
03/31/20 at 0.55%
07/24/20 at 0.44%
11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level
12/15/20 at 0.64%
01/04/21 at 0.64%
01/13/21 at 0.80%
02/03/21 at 0.81%
02/16/21 at 0.76%
03/05/21 at 1.23%
03/31/21 at 1.40%
 
 
10 YEAR NOTES closed on:
 
10/5/18 at 3.23%
12/18/18 at 2.82%
09/09/19 at 1.83%
10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!
12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!
02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!
03/11/20 at 0.82%
03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again
03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again
07/24/20 at 0.59%
11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level
12/15/20 at 0.92%
01/04/21 at 0.93%
01/13/21 at 1.10%
02/03/21 at 1.15%
02/16/21 at 1.09%
03/05/21 at 1.56%
03/31/21 at 1.74%
 
 
30 YEAR BONDS closed on:
 
10/5/18 at 3.40%
12/18/18 at 3.07%
07/24/19 at 2.58%
09/10/19 at 2.11%
12/06/19 at 2.29%
02/06/20 at 2.11%
03/11/20 at 1.30%
03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!
03/23/20 at 1.33% back down
07/24/20 at 1.23%
11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level
12/15/20 at 1.65%
01/04/21 at 1.66%
01/13/21 at 1.82%
02/03/21 at 1.92%
02/16/21 at 1.84%
03/05/21 at 2.28%
03/31/21 at 2.41%
                                                                                   
 
Housing News:
 
The Working-From-Home phenomenon continues, as people realize if they can work from home, why shouldn’t that home be out of the cold Northeast or taxing California, and have stepped up an exodus to Arizona and Florida, so I’m hearing from realtors in both states. Construction, partly because of skyrocketing prices on materials due to COVID-19 shutdowns, cannot keep up with the demand. Pending home sales dropped 10.6% from January, with all major regions showing a decline. Experts say the decline was attributed to very low inventory. New home sales also plunged 18.2%, but yet demand remained strong. Home prices saw their highest gain in nearly 15 years. The delinquency rate rose for the first time in 9 months. Existing home sales fell 6.6%, again on weak supply. Some experts think that the great refi boom may be over. Vacation towns and suburbs have seen the largest housing increases. Fannie Mae says that housing market confidence should rise soon.
 
 
Repo/Securities Financing News:                               
 
 
Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo.
 
Well, we got through another quarter-end. This was subdued compared to past ones, as there is a collateral shortage, and it’s probably not going away soon. The tax filing date was moved from 4/15 to 5/17, but the Fed is continuing to buy $120 billion in securities every month and US Treasury is actually now paying down debt, at least for the next month, instead of issuing more or the Fed issuing CM bills. That could leave GC repo rates near zero percent for a month or two. State Street’s, Darren Wilson, has moved from EMEA cash and liquidity sales team to the funding and collateral solutions desk, under Staffan Ahiner. DataLend says that securities finance revenues are up 10% in Q1 year/year, mostly due to the IPOs, SPACs, and short squeezes of January. Those squeeze events on various stocks helped boost Equities Trading revenues by 8% too, compared to 2020 Q1. The FCA is launching a UK SPAC consultation, increasing scrutiny and potential regulations, for an area that has been a valuable revenue stream for Securities Lending participants. Women in Securities Finance has unveiled a new website, womeninsecuritiesfinance.com. ISLA and ICMA are warning that the grace period for including 3rd party LEIs must be extended again beyond April, because of big gaps in the data. ICMA published its first post-Brexit update to its SFTR guide. The final phase of the EU’s SFTR went live in January, which brought in non-financial counterparties. That actually widened the regulatory divergence between EU and UK with Brexit. EACH has responded for the industry to the European Commission Inception Impact Assessment on the current CSDR SDR. Broadridge has partnered with AccessFintech, to automate settlement fails, which will help with compliance to CSDR requirements. It appears that the majority of the industry polled are in favor of buy-ins for Fails to become voluntary. Bursa Malaysia has extended its intraday shorting ban. Citi is looking for a global head of Agency Lending Operations.
 
Securities Finance Industry Conferences
 
The Securities Financing industry had all of these annual conferences, several for many years, which used to be attended by thousands of firms, colleagues, and peers. After the financial crisis, the numbers of participants decreased, as firms’ budgets were reduced. Some of the conferences were excellent networking opportunities and some had extremely valuable panels and current information and issues being discussed. Some of the more recent ones focused information and questions on specific sectors to be more effective. There was also a major emphasis recently by many of the conferences on diversity and women’s participation in the industry. Unfortunately, COVID-19 led to the banishing of gatherings worldwide, and these conferences were cancelled or held for free virtually.  That isn’t a viable business plan for conference organizers though, as it can be costly to put these events on. So, our market is looking for other solutions to networking, discussing the pressing issues, and finding solutions for peers. Pierpoint Alpha Community is one such new solution.
 
 
·       Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20.  They just did their 2021 version virtually for the first time.
·       Global Investor Group held a virtual Buyside Repo & Regulatory Forum on 3/24.  conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20.
 
 
Federal Reserve News:
 
 
The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks. 
 
 
The next FOMC meetings are: 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are in. 
 
The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.
 
The Federal Reserve is increasing attention to banks’ actions in phasing out LIBOR, reportedly calling on the banks for details on their progress in the phase-out, what exposure to LIBOR they still have, their plans for shifting contracts to another benchmark, and fallback language they are using. Barrons ran an article about how a regulatory tweak by the Fed and other regulators could have huge consequences for the US financial system. Monetary policy, coupled with US government borrowing, and capital rules, could push deposits and payments away from banks and into money funds. It could also put the Fed in a much more central role.
 
 
Earthquakes and Volcanoes:
 
 
Here are significant earthquakes for just two days. A little quieter than it has been previously:
 
04/01 6.0 Fiji region
04/01 4.8 WSW of Guelma, Algeria
04/01 4.6 W of Tobelo, Indonesia
04/01 4.7 SSE of Astypalaia, Greece
04/01 5.4 SE of Sarangani, Philippines
04/01 6.5 Kermadec Islands, New Zealand
04/01 4.6 Volcano Islands, Japan
04/01 4.8 ENE of Mutsu, Japan
03/31 4.9 SSW of Merizo Village, Guam
03/31 4.9 ENE of Iquique, Chile
03/31 4.7 WSW of Tual, Indonesia
03/31 4.7 W of La Libertad, Mexico
03/31 4.7 SE of Loyalty Islands
03/31 5.2 SSW of Merizo Village, Guam
03/31 5.1 Owen Fracture Zone
03/31 4.6 Fiji region
03/31 4.5 NW of Las Ovejas, Argentina
 
 
 
Weather:
 
                                                                                
The death toll from those Texas winter storms has now surpassed 100 people. Critical fire weather conditions exist across portions of the Northern and Southern Plains today. Record-breaking cold temperatures will spread across areas of the Lower Mississippi River Valley and extend to the Northeast over the next few days. Even Florida, which nearly broke record highs earlier this week, reaching 88-90, will cool off about 10 degrees. Otherwise, the weather across the contiguous US this weekend and into early week will be quiet.
 
 
 
The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th.  According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength. 
Instead, 2020 was a record year, not only with the pandemic, but also in meteorology. There were 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and 2020 was also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names in the alphabetical system. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was 250% more active than average.
 
 
Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates there have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!
 
 
The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific.
 
 
 
Sports News:       
 
 
 
MLB:
 
 
The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 of that year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams play each other in the Spring Training facility that they share (and where I sing the National Anthem at), I was delighted to sing a few games there, before the 2020 Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) was shut down about 3/15, with the pandemic. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors.
 
 
MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which re-started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in another exciting (and rare) 7-game series.
 
 
For 2021, it was decided by MLB that in the Grapefruit League (Spring Training-Florida), the teams on the East coast would only play each other and the teams on the West coast would only play each other. So, the Astros, Cardinals, Marlins, Mets, and Nationals will play each other, and not travel to other ballparks, just these 3 parks in West Palm Beach, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.  They will play 24 games in 30 days.  The other 8 teams in the Grapefruit League in Florida on the West Coast will be split into two groups (Tigers/Yankees/Phillies/Blue Jays and Braves/Red Sox/Twins/Rays) and will play each other 28 games over the 30-day span. MLB eliminated the use of college baseball teams in the revised schedules, because they haven’t been subject to MLB testing protocols. Also eliminated were split-squad games, which allow for the evaluation of more players. I see another ‘asterisk’ season on the way. The exhibition season began for all teams on 2/28. I was honored to be chosen by the Spring Training Facility of the Cardinals and Marlins to come in and be officially videotaped for the scoreboard performance of the National Anthem and “God Bless America”, and that performance will be presented at the 3/26 Mets @ Marlins game.
 
The 162-game schedule for 2021 begins today, about a month later than usual. The Players Association finally got the owners to relent on the 154-game schedule. MLB is welcoming fans back to all 30 ballparks for Opening Day. The commissioner is hopeful for full stadiums in 2021, possibly without fan restrictions by mid-season. Players are going to be following very strict guidelines regarding COVID-19 precautions. Baseball is also donating $1.5 million in tickets to frontline and essential workers throughout the season to show appreciation for their herculean efforts. Marlins Park has been renamed here in Miami to loanDepot park, a mixture of bad grammar. MLB is finally about to implement the Designated Hitter for the National League, something which has been around in the American League since 1973, and something which has triggered many debates about the purity of the game. One side says it removes the nearly automatic out and increases offensive production, while the other side says it lets the pitcher avoid hitting and facing retribution for pitches he may have thrown at opposing batters. The players and the MLB now appear to largely favor a universal DH. The only thing holding the rule back is MLB owners withholding the DH rule from the NL, unless the players union agrees to an expanded playoff format in 2021. Basically, that’s trying to swap one rule, favored by almost all, for a rule that only favors the greedy owners. The Mets have agreed to a 10-year contract extension for $341 million with Francisco Lindor. The Red Sox opening day with the Orioles, schedule for 4/1, has been postponed to Friday, because of expected rain. Mookie Betts, one of my favorite former Red Sox players, has an MVP trophy, and now 2 World Series Championship rings. He also has baseball’s most popular jersey.
 
Golf:
 
 
The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. The PGA played the popular local Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, FL (just up the road from me and about 7 of the Tour golfers). Yet, many of the locals did not actually play in the tournament this year (Woods, Koepka, Thomas, Kaufman, DJ, Schwartzel, etc.). The first two were injured, but 20 of the top 30 golfers in the country live here in Palm Beach County. Aussie golfer, Matt Jones, ended a 7-year Tour win drought, with a great performance at the Honda Classic, winning in dominating fashion.  He got a tidy $1.6 million winner’s check and an entry to this year’s Masters. The 40-year-old opened with an amazing 61 on the very difficult course. Tiger Woods reportedly feels better after followup procedures on his leg. The cause of his automobile crash in California has now been discovered (as of 3/31), but detectives aren’t revealing it, unless Tiger signs off on the disclosure. Greg Norman says it’s time to move on, and is heading home to Australia, after selling his Jupiter Island estate for $77 million and his Colorado ranch for $52 million, in the past month. The Tour’s last tuneup before the Masters is this weekend’s Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio, starting today (Thursday). Next week is the Masters.
 
 
LPGA great, Annika Sorenstam, returned from a 13-year retirement, to play in last month’s Gainbridge LPGA, which was at her home course of Lake Nona, in Orlando, FL. The Hall-of-Famer had not competed in an official tournament since 2008. She made the cut, which is pretty impressive, but the winner of the tournament was 
 
This is wild! They just held the 2021 Seminole Pro-Member private tournament at the famed Seminole Golf Club, up the street here in North Palm Beach and these were the pairings (with some notable famous names):
 

 
 
 
 
NFL:
 
 
The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL.
 
 
Super Bowl LV was played in Tampa Bay on Sunday, with the Bucs acting as home team, the first time that a Super Bowl was played in the city where one of the teams was from. Despite the odds against it and his age against him, QB Tom Brady and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl over the Chiefs, 31-9. Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP, as he won his 7th Super Bowl, more than any franchise, let alone any player, in 10 trips to the Super Bowl.
 
I just read an article a few days ago that said all 11 offensive starters for the Tampa Bay Bucs will be returning next season. But, today I read that WR Antonio Brown has been talking with the Bucs, but they are currently far apart on how much money to pay him. The veteran WR market is somewhere between DeSean Jackson’s one year/$4.5 million contract with Los Angeles, to T.Y. Hilton’s one year/$8 million contract in Indianapolis. LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase said he “wouldn’t mind” a reunion with QB Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft said “I don’t feel like we’ve done the greatest job the last few years” in the Draft. Giants’ John Mara said he is waiting for the “appropriate time” to discuss Saquon Barkley extension.
 
 
 
Tennis
 
 
The 2021 tennis season is now in full swing, although not always with fans in the stadiums. The first major of the year, the Australian Open was, delayed 3 weeks by COVID-19, and ended 2/21.  Novak Djokovic successfully defended his Men’s singles title, claiming his 18th Grand Slam title, edging closer to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who both have 20 Grand Slam titles each.  In Women’s singles, the Final was won by Naomi Osaka, her 4th Grand Slam title. Down in Miami, Sakkari stopped Osaka’s long win streak with a shutout in the first set. Serena Williams has revealed in an interview that her marriage is “not bliss”. Iron Woman Andreescu has beaten Muguruza to make the Miami quarterfinals. Bautista Agut beat Medvedev in Miami quarterfinal. Bianca Andreescu outlasted Sorribles Tormo for Miami Open semifinal. Roland Garros Stadium and the French Open is still on for the “scheduled dates”, as France re-enters pandemic lockdown.
 
 
NCAA Basketball
 
 
The 2020-2021 season began in November. The 2021 NCAA tournament, March Madness, will continue in April and will be entirely in Indianapolis. We are nearing the end. We have reached the FINAL FOUR, which will be played 4/3. The Championship will be on 4/5. After the 11th seed UCLA, who knocked off my Michigan State in the first round, edged No.2 seed Michigan (and ranked No.2 in the nation), No.1 seed and rank Gonzaga crushed No.5 seed USC, No.1 seed Baylor beat No.3 seed Arkansas, and No.2 seed Houston beat Cinderella team No.12 seed Oregon State, we are left with the final four teams:
 
No.1 Gonzaga will face No.11 UCLA
No.1 Baylor will face No.2 Houston
 
 
These were the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 02/07/21:
 
1.    Gonzaga (24-0)
2.    Michigan (18-2)
3.    Baylor (19-1)
4.    Illinois (19-6)
5.    Iowa (18-7)
6.    West Virginia (17-7)
7.    Ohio State (18-7)
8.    Alabama (20-6)
9.    Houston (20-3)
10.                 Villanova (16-4)
11.                 Florida State (15-4)
12.                 Arkansas (20-5)
13.                 Kansas (18-8)
14.                 Creighton (17-7)
15.                 Texas (15-7)
16.                 Oklahoma (14-8)
17.                 Oklahoma State (17-6)
18.                 Texas Tech (16-8)
19.                 San Diego State (20-4)
20.                 Loyola IL (21-4)
21.                 Virginia (16-6)
22.                 Virginia Tech (15-5)
23.                 Purdue (17-8)
24.                 Colorado (19-7)
25.                 Wisconsin (16-10)
 
 
A new league, the Overtime Elite League is making some news, proposing to pay high school basketball players $100,000 salaries and a focus toward a pro basketball career, which organizers feel might me more appealing to players than college basketball programs. The OTE would be backed by a sports media company, Overtime, and is obviously intensifying the debate over whether student athletes should be paid. Overtime intends to compete directly with the NCAA for the nation’s top high school basketball players, by employing about 30 of them, to circumvent the college sports scene. Overtime will offer each athlete, some as young as 16, a minimum of $100,000 annually, as well as a signing bonus and some shares in the overall company. The company will also provide athletes with health and disability insurance, and will set aside $100,000 in college scholarship money for each player, in case any decide not to pursue the NBA.  Overtime was founded in 2016 and got an early investment from David Stern, the former NBA commissioner. Its videographers have been filming high school players all over the country. The larger debate is whether it is appropriate for pro sports leagues to grab young athletes out of high school and college with big checks, or for colleges to exploit the talents of athletes for big revenues without compensating the athletes. Since 2006 draft, the NBA has not been able to go after athletes until they turn 19 or one year after their high school graduation.
 
Olympics:
 
The Olympic Torch began its 121-day journey around Japan this week, leading up to the opening of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
 
NHL:
 
Last season (2019-2020) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on the asterisk season on 10/2/19. The puck dropped (again) to conclude this past season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.
 
 
The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) was delayed and started 1/13/21.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There have already been many cancelled or postponed games, due to COVID-19 racing through some of the teams. There was also divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic.  However, this realignment had been discussed for a few years now. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. This is this season’s odd configuration. The top 4 teams from each division make the playoffs:
 
NORTH (all Canadian) (their current standings 32-37 games into the regular season)
 
Toronto Maple Leafs
Winnipeg Jets
Edmonton Oilers
Montreal Canadiens
Calgary Flames
Vancouver Canucks
Ottawa Senators
 
WEST(and their current standings 33-37 games into the regular season)
 
Las Vegas Golden Knights
Colorado Avalanche
Minnesota Wild
St. Louis Blues
Arizona Coyotes
LA Kings
San Jose Sharks
Anaheim Mighty Ducks
 
CENTRAL (and their current standings 33-37 games into the regular season)
 
Tampa Bay Lightning
Florida Panthers
Carolina Hurricanes
Nashville Predators
Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
 
EAST (and their current standings 32-36 games into the regular season)
 
Washington Capitals
New York Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins
Boston Bruins
Philadelphia Flyers
New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
Buffalo Sabres
 
 
Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere has been surprisingly placed on waivers. Flyers’ Chuck Fletcher may be looking to make a big deal to shake up the team, which is in a major funk. That could involve Travis Sanheim of the Kings. John Tortorella’s time looks like it could be over with the Blue Jackets, although he pulled of an incredible win Tuesday night over the high-flying Lightning. The Panthers have had a great season, but now must face the loss of star Aaron Ekblad. The Sabres are in an 18-game winless streak. Alex Pietrangelo has returned to the Golden Knights.
 
 
NBA:
 
 
Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers.
 
The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. Dapper Labs, creator of NBA Top Shot, has received $305 million in funding. There is a rumor of a proposed 3-team blockbuster trade, that would send Bradley Beal to my Celtics in 2021 offseason from the Wizards. That would give Boston a Big Three of Tatum, Brown, and Beal. Suns’ Najafi committed $10 million contribution ($1 million per year/10 years) to the NBA Foundation, which will help drive empowerment for Black communities. The rate at which triple-doubles are occurring this season has increased nearly 700% from 9 years ago and 47% since last season. The Wizards’ Westbrook pulled off an incredible 35-14-21 triple-double. The airplane the Jazz were flying on had to turn back after hitting birds on takeoff. The tradeline just passed. Gordon went to the Nuggets, Spurs added veteran Dieng, and the Lakers picked up Drummond. After being just traded to the Hawks, his hometown team, Lou Williams was seriously considering retirement. But, he says he wants to help his hometown team make the playoffs. We’ve played 44-47 games so far in the regular season, and here are the current standings (top 8 of each conference):
 
EASTERN CONFERENCE
 
Philadelphia 76ers
Brooklyn Nets
Milwaukee Bucks
Charlotte Hornets
NY Knicks
Atlanta Hawks
 
Bubble teams:
Boston Celtics
Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers
Chicago Bulls
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
 
Utah Jazz
Phoenix Suns
LA Clippers
LA Lakers
Denver Nuggets
Portland Trailblazers
 
Bubble teams:
Dallas Mavericks
San Antonia Spurs
Memphis Grizzlies
Golden State Warriors
 
    
 
Horse Racing:
 
 
After the strange order of the fanless Triple Crown races last year, due to COVID-19, 2021 Kentucky Derby will be held on 05/01 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. The top 10-ranked contenders, so far, are:
 
1.Concert Tour-just crushed the field at 2021 Rebel Stakes and is another Bob Baffert trained horse
2.Essential Quality-just won 2021 Southwest Stakes
3.Life is Good-just won 2021 San Felipe, another Bob Baffert trained horse
4.Hot Rod Charlie-just won 2021 Louisiana Derby
5.Known Agenda-just won 2021 Florida Derby
6.Medina Spirit-came in 2nd at 2021 San Felipe, another Bob Baffert horse
7.Greatest Honour-came in 3rd 2021 Florida Derby
8.Soup and Sandwich-came in 2nd 2021 Florida Derby
9.Helium-just won 2021 Tampa Bay Derby
10.Like the King-just won 2021 Jeff Ruby Stakes
 
I looked at the names of the Sires and I don’t recognize any as superstar horses.
 
The other notable races leading up to the Kentucky Derby are:
 
4/3 Blue Grass Stakes
4/3 Santa Anita Derby
4/3 Wood Memorial
4/3 Blue Grass Stakes
4/10 Arkansas Derby
4/10 Lexington
 
 
Auto Racing:
 
 
In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2020, Chase Elliott won. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the 3rd father-son duo to win the title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale).  In 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2021 regular season began with the Daytona 500 on 2/14/21. Here is the 2021 schedule and winners:
 
02/09/21 Busch Clash at Daytona-Kyle Busch
02/11/21 Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona-Aric Almirola
02/11/21 Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona-Austin Dillon
02/14/21 DAYTONA 500-Michael McDowell
02/21/21 O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona-Christopher Bell
02/28/21 DIXIE VODKA 400 at Homestead-Miami-William Byron
03/07/21 Pennzoil 400 by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas-Kyle Larson
03/14/21 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Phoenix-Martin Truex Jr.
03/21/21 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta-Ryan Blaney
03/29/21 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol-Joey Logano
04/10/21 Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, VA-
04/18/21 Toyota Owners 400-Richmond Raceway-
04/25/21 GEICO 500-Talladega-
 
 
Formula One began 2020 with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown. Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. There will be a 23-race F1 calendar for 2021. It does not begin until 3/28/21. Here is the 2021 schedule and here are the winners:
 
03/28/21-Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix-Lewis Hamilton edged Max Verstappen
04/18/21-Italy-
05/02/21-TBD
05/09/21-Spain-
05/23/21-Monaco-
06/06/21-Azerbaijan-
06/13/21-Canada-
06/27/21-France-
07/04/21-Austria-
07/18/21-Great Britain-
08/02/21-Hungary-
08/29/21-Belgium-
09/05/21-Netherlands-
09/12/21-Italy-
09/26/21-Russia-
10/03/21-Singapore-
10/10/21-Japan-
10/24/21-United States
10/31/21-Mexico-
11/07/21-Brazil-
11/21/21-Australia-
12/05/21-Saudi Arabia-
12/12/21-Abu Dhabi-
 
 
IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden. The 2021 season does not begin until mid-April. Here is the schedule and the winners:
 
04/17/21-Birmingham Barber Motorsports Park
04/24/21-St. Petersburg Street Course
05/01/21-Texas Motor Speedway
05/14/21-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-GP 1
05/29/21-Indy 500
06/12/21-Detroit Raceway on Belle Isle
06/19/21-Road America
07/03/21-Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
07/10/21-Toronto Exhibition Place
08/07/21-Nashville Street Course
08/13/21-Indianapolis GP 2
08/20/21-Gateway Motorsports Park
09/11/21-Portland International Raceway
09/18/21-Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
09/25/21-Streets of Long Beach
 
 
Travel News:
 
 
Virgin Hotels is doubling down on Scotland with a new Glasgow location. Utah is getting two new state parks and one is named after the State dinosaur (?). No, I’m not going to leave you hanging. It will be named Utahraptor State Park. I’ve heard of State birds, State flowers, State Governors, State Senators, State flags, State penitentiaries, and State animals, but not State dinosaurs. Apparently, this new park will be located where the dinosaur fossils were first found in 1975. The feathered dinosaur, which dwarfed the velociraptor, made famous by JURASSIC PARK, had nine-inch claws and could grow to 20 feet tall. Smithsonian Magazine reported, after scientists tossed around the name spielbergi (after the movie’s director) for the newly found species, finally decided to honor the State with Utahraptor ostrommaysi. Interestingly, the site was also used as a Conservation Corps Camp and “relocation” center during the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, well before the fossils were found. Travel & Leisure reports from a survey by LuggageHero that these are the US airlines least likely to lose or damage your luggage: 1. Allegiant Air, 2. Southwest Airlines, 3. Hawaiian Air. These US airlines are the MOST likely to lose or damage your luggage: 1. American Airlines, 2. Envoy Air. TSA announced that it screened a record number of travelers for Spring Break 2021, as people cooped up during the pandemic are Breaking out. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not quite over and people are still dying. CDC is still reminding Americans to “limit” travel amid rise in COVID-19 cases in 33 States. Airlines are discussing reinstating change fees on lowest fare travel, all of which had been suspended due to the pandemic. Delta is resuming flights to Iceland for vaccinated travelers from Minneapolis, JFK, Boston, and other airports. Earlier this month, Iceland reopened its borders to vaccinated travelers from outside Europe’s Schengen Zone, including Americans. It is the first destination in Europe to do so for tourism purposes. In order to visit, and this will no doubt be important going forward for other countries (another reason that vaccine resisters may find their worlds shrinking), travelers must provide proof of a vaccination approved by the European Medicines Agency, which includes Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson. Or, visitors can provide proof of recovery from COVID-19. So, that little index card with the dates of shots from the CDC is likely to prove very valuable to people. There have been conspiracy theories that you may need it for travel, for restaurant service, and maybe to obtain a job. Mount Rushmore has closed, not because President Trump is being added, but because firefighters are battling South Dakota wildfires nearby. Hundreds of residents have also had to evacuate their homes. I’m just looking at the picture and wondering why it seems like President Washington is turning his back on the other Presidents. Airbnb has launched new neurodiverse experiences to ensure virtual travel becomes more approachable for everyone. Etihad Airways may have just made one of the world’s most beautiful safety videos, filming it at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Graduate Hotels is coming to NYC, bringing eclectic cool to Roosevelt Island. Vaccinated travelers will be allowed a beach getaway in Phuket in July. Speaking of the Louvre, the real one in Paris just put its entire collection online, so you can view it at home for free. Japan has become the latest country to issue digital vaccine passport. Disneyland Resort may be expanding in the near future. Royal Caribbean announced that it is launching new Mediterranean cruises for vaccinated travelers. Celebrity Cruises has announced June sailings to Greece.
 
 
I am keeping this part in as a Public Service Announcement for at least one more Repo Commentary.  The CDC has just added some Caribbean islands to its designation of “very high” risk for travel, now including (as of 2/2/21):
 
Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Barbuda, Bonaire, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma (Myanmar), Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Curacao, Denmark, Easter Island, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Finland, French Guinea, French Polynesia, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guernsey, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mayotte, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sint Maarten, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Maderia Islands, The Netherlands, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and cruise ships.  (After typing all that out, I’m wondering if it would have just been easier to name the ones that were okay to travel to.)
 
The CDC uses Travel Health Notices to alert travelers to health threats around the world and has adapted its 3-level notice system to a 4-level system for COVID-19 and updated criteria for each level.
 
Level 4-Very High level of COVID-19, travelers should avoid all travel to these destinations
Level 3-High level of COVID-19, travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations
Level 2-Moderate level of COVID-19, travelers are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations
Level 1-Low level of COVID-19, travelers should wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart from people who are not from your travel group, avoid crowds, wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer, and watch for signs of illness
 
 
Health News:  
 
 
As of this evening (3/30), globally, more than 2,796,431 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 127,880,539 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 30.3 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 550,371. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (313,866), Mexico (201,832), India (162,144), and UK (126,912). COVID-19 was in fact the third-leading cause of death in the US in 2020! You are, no doubt, hearing more about the variants of the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 (UK, South Africa, Brazil, New York, California, etc.), which so far scientists believe the current vaccines will cover. Just as officials warned, the UK variant, which is the most contagious, is now the top 5 regions in the US, and responsible for 26% of all new infections, according to the CDC. However, scientists are beginning to agree that, because of the likelihood of more variants, that COVID-19 booster shots each year may be required, similar to taking the Flu shot. The reason behind that is that, unlike say a vaccine for measles, which works all the time, influenza shots have to be tweaked each year to identify the circulating strains, coordinated by the WHO, so as to change the structure of the vaccine every year. Latin America’s latest COVID-19 surge could be worse than last year’s, according to experts. Ontario has locked down due to a steep rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
 
In early March, the US started administering more than 2 million shots per day. The country surpassed President Biden’s initial goal of 100 million vaccines into arms in his first days, within 58 days. So, the President doubled his goal to 200 million shots by the end of April. He also has set a target date of May 1, 2021, for all US adults to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Here, in Florida, as of Monday 3/29, 40-year-olds and older are eligible. Currently, there are only 2 of 3 vaccines approved in the US for emergency purposes that require two shots for full 95-96% effectiveness, while the other vaccine, Johnson & Johnson, requires only one shot for full 76% effectiveness. The US continues to have the most COVID-19 cases and deaths, and cases have just risen again in 33 States. Globally, more than 559 million shots had been given by 3/30. There are 9 vaccines being administered globally to combat COVID-19.
 
Pfizer/BioNTech                72 countries
Oxford/AstraZeneca         71 countries
Moderna                             32 countries
Sinopharm                          19 countries
Sputnik V                            18 countries
Sinovac                               11 countries
Janssen                              2   countries
EpiVacCorona                   1   country
Covaxin (Bharat Biotech) 1   country
 
Germany and Canada have decided to limit the use of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 for anyone under 60-years-old. The German medicines regulator found 31 cases of a type of rare blood clot among the nearly 2.7 million people who had received the vaccine in Germany.
 
Regarding that WHO investigation, in conjunction with China authorities, into the cause of COVID-19, which produced only hundreds of pages of reports, the WHO says more work is needed to rule out a COVID-19 lab leak. Also, scientists in UK are researching in a clinical trial on whether we can mix the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines. Public health experts are watching several COVID-19 hot spots around the country, including areas of Florida and Michigan, to determine if a 4th COVID-19 wave may be building. A Regeneron antibody cocktail may reduce COVID-19 hospitalization by 70%. Having given millions of people shots, authorities now are getting a really clear picture on what the possible near-term side effects of the shots can be. Moderna has found to sometimes create one or more of the following in some people: injection site pain, fatigue (sometimes major), headache, chills and fever, and aches and pains in muscles and joints. It has been noted in the data that older adults are less likely to experience side effects after vaccination. The reactions to the second shot for vaccines that require two shots are reportedly more intense. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are similarly mRNA vaccines, in which the first shot teaches the body how to recognize the COVID-19 virus, and the second shot (the “booster”) teaches the body the immune response by making a piece of SARS-CoV-2 protein. The Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccine reportedly is associated with milder side effects that the mRNA shots. I’ve researched the vaccines a great deal and the most important information I found, and it wasn’t easy, is that after the two shots vaccination or the one shot vaccination, recipients will be immunized in 14 days after the last shot. It is similar to the incubation of the virus and the immunization time of influenza shots. So, I’ll wait until 4/24 to return to a large fitness center. Great, Pfizer just announced this morning (4/1) that its vaccine protection lasts at least 6 months after 2nd shot. What happened to one year and then maybe boosters? It also announced that the COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in children 12-15-years-old.
 
In other health news, drinking caffeine during pregnancy has been associated with slightly lower birth weights, according to new research. Another new study has shown that eating nitrate-rich leafy greens can boost muscle function and strength.  The FDA has approved a new MS medication, a once-daily oral treatment. One in Seven adults are unaware that they have chronic kidney disease, which affects about 37 million people in the US. 90% of those people don’t know they have it. Viagra may help men with coronary artery disease live longer, according to new research from Sweden. 61% of Americans say that they gained weight during the Pandemic. New research suggests that maintaining 3 feet of distance is enough for students in classrooms when mask mandates are in place, rather than 6 feet of distance. Galleri is a new blood test that has the ability to detect 50 types of cancer through a single blood draw. THC from marijuana can linger in breast milk for as long as 6 weeks, according to new research. The FDA has just authorized a rapid at-home COVID-19 test without a prescription. In an effort to reduce or manage our carbon footprints, shampoo bottles will soon feature labels that show carbon content. A Baltimore, MD plant run by Emergent BioSolutions was making two different coronavirus vaccines when its workers mixed up the ingredients, ruining 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine, according to the NY Times. Facebook is letting anti-vaxxers to scare women from getting COVID-19 vaccines.
 
 
Animal News:
 
 
This could be a problem, sickly black bears in the Sierra Nevada are acting friendlier and fearless around humans. The bears have been found to have a mysterious disease. A necropsy confirmed that it, along with 2 previous bears, had suffered from encephalitis. A bright spot from COVID-19 has meant quieter oceans, healthier whales, and unhappy whale hunters. In Ottawa, Canada a hero dog, Clover, blocked the road with traffic and summoned help from passing drivers for her owner Haley Moore’s sudden seizure. A Virginia police officer was shot during attempt to catch an escaped cow. A father has been accused of bringing, dropping child in San Diego Zoo’s elephant habitat. One of the elephants appeared ready to charge. Animal rights groups criticize new Chinese hotel with polar bear enclosure. A Columbus, Ohio zookeeper was injured in a cheetah attack at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. A two-story barn at Roer’s Zoofari in Virginia caught fire and killed two giraffes. The FDA is continuing an investigation into dog heart damage linked to diet, possibly associated with grain-free pet foods. Nine great apes at the San Diego Zoo have received their Covid vaccinations. Scientists have discovered a giant, luminous deep-sea shark, one of three species, a kitefin shark, that glow in the dark. It is now the largest known luminous underwater creature. Brandy, a brown tabby cat, was reunited with its owner, who had adopted her as a 2-month-old kitten in 2005 and hadn’t seen her since. Tiny fossils in Newfoundland, Canada may be evidence of the oldest cephalopod on record, perhaps 500-million-years-old. Here’s an odd one…Scientists are brainstorming over why so many sea creatures swim in a strange circular pattern. One thought is that it calibrates the animals’ magnetic biosensors, in much the same way that manmade submarines circle. Oh no, not again! Billions of periodical cicadas, known as Brood X, will emerge across the eastern US in 2021. Most predators have been stymied by the cicadas’ 17-year life spans, but the insects are still vulnerable to
‘zombie fungus’. It took 25 years for scientists to crack a mystery surrounding a neurodegenerative disease killing bald eagles and other lake animals in the US. A sprawling 5,000-year-old cemetery and fortress has been discovered in Poland. Every few years, millions of by-the-wind sailor jellyfish wash up on beaches and die. Scientists blame ‘the blob’ on this phenomenon. A dead “river monster” from the Amazon (like that guy hunts on that show River Monsters hunts and I watch occasionally) was discovered in, gulp, Florida! This is leading officials to be concerned that the fish might become another invasive species here. Okay, this one is weird too…apparently genes of 500-million-year-old sea monster live inside us. Primeval sea creatures share genes with humans. A juvenile humpback whale has washed up on a beach in the UK after first being spotted dead weeks ago. Japan’s famous cherry blossoms are seeing their earliest bloom in 1,200 years, as the climate warms. Fireflies don’t respond well to light pollution.
 
 
Entertainment News:
 
Ariana Grande is joining The Voice as a coach.Seth Rogen has clarified his comments on Emma Watson “storming off the set”. Demi Lovato, as CNN reports, said, “I am too gay to marry a man right now.” Disney+ has unveiled the Obi-Wan Kenobi cast. I can’t wait!  Former Bachelor star, Ben Higgins, is discussing Chris Harrison. Woody Allen has once again denied sexual abuse allegation in rare interview. Lady Gaga is gushing about her 35th birthday gift from boyfriend. Jason Derulo and his girlfriend Jena Frumes are expecting their first child. Reese Witherspoon has taken to Instagram to celebrate her “sweet hubby” of 10 years. Hilary Duff has welcomed her third child, also on Instagram. After a week of controversy, Sharon Osbourne is out of The Talk cast. Bindi Irwin and her husband Chandler Powell have welcomed their first child. As the Kardashians bring their reality show to a close this season, Kim Kardashian appears to be bringing her marriage to Kanye West also to a close. Their marital problems are actually being featured on the same reality show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I watched the Tina Turner tribute story and it was awesome. I still don’t understand why or how King Kong and Godzilla are fighting. I seem to remember King Kong being much smaller and without much of a friendship with mankind, except one woman. Kirsten Dunst is pregnant with baby No.2. Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah has been arrested on 3/30 and charged with a telemarketing scheme, including charges of wire fraud and money laundering. If convicted, Shah and her assistant each face up to 50 years in prison. TikTok star Rochelle Hager is dead at 31, after freak driving accident. Kendall Jenner’s security has been increased after a man was arrested for trespassing. Fran Drescher is very happy for The Nanny coming to HBO Max. Paul Simon has joined a growing list of prominent musicians cashing in, by selling his song catalog. Manifest starts its new season tonight.
 
Technology & Space News:
 
 
A piece of the Wright Brother’s first plane is now on Mars. A rare daytime fireball meteor created a massive sonic boom over the UK. Speaking of the UK, the Biden administration is threatening tariffs on UK goods in “tech tax” disagreement. In retaliation for UK tax on tech firms, the US has warned that it could put tariffs of up to 25% on a host of UK exports. This could affect ceramics, make-up, overcoats, game consoles, and furniture. Interestingly, Biden Administration is pressing ahead with the action, which was initiated by President Trump, despite warnings from the UK. Such actions have proceeded against similar taxes in India, Austria, and Spain. However, the US has suspended tariffs on single malt Scotch whiskey.  No need to get unreasonable, lol! Facebook has agreed to pay France EU 106 million in back taxes. Now that Spring has sprung in the Northern Hemisphere and Autumn has fallen in the Southern Hemisphere), last weekend (3/26) featured March’s full moon, a supermoon (20% larger than normal), and referred to as the ‘Worm Moon’. The Old Farmer’s Almanac assigns nicknames to each of the year’s full moons, drawing from Native American tradition. This is usually when the ground begins warming up and earthworms begin appearing. TSMC will invest $100 billion to increase semiconductor output. Micron and Western Digital are looking at possible deals for Japanese chip maker Kioxia, a deal which could be worth as much as $30 billion. Google’s ad changes, which include blocking of third-party cookies, will prompt big brands to revamp their data strategies.
 
US News:
 
President Biden has just unveiled his sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure plan. It’s kind of Biden’s version of FDR’s New Deal plan to get us out of the Great Depression.  To pay for shoring up America’s disintegrating infrastructure, the White House plans to take back some of the tax cuts that Republicans gave corporations and the rich 4 years ago. The corporate tax rate may move from 21% to 28%. Within the plan is electrical vehicle support to clean water. Without me saying whether one policy was better than the other, President Biden’s reversal of President Trump’s border ban and allowing some 4,100 immigrant children to enter the US, has led to their confinement in huge refugee facilities, which are 800% over capacity. The parents are not allowed to enter, and they assume that the children will eventually be put in foster facilities or linked with current US resident relatives. As word spreads, there are likely to be more immigrant families taking advantage of this, which will only exacerbate the overcrowding and stalled processing. It must be a very difficult decision for a foreign parent to give up their child over a border to a new country, with the hopes of a better life for the child, potentially never to see them again. There is a livestream of the Derek Chauvin trial, the accused Minneapolis ex-policeman in the George Floyd death, in its 4th day. Four people, including a child, were killed in a California shooting. Sarah Palin is urging mask use by Americans, after revealing COVID-19 diagnosis. The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that Charlottesville can remove Confederate statues.
 
 
Bankruptcy:
 
 
In 2020, restaurant and food service industry sales fell by $240 billion, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry 2021 report.  
 
 
International News:
 
 
The Pentagon and military officials around the world are becoming more alarmed, as North Korean leader continues to make stronger public threats, after firing of 3 ballistic missiles into the ocean, and new satellite imagery from US military shows a nuclear power facility that has clearly been converted to make nuclear missiles and bombs. All of this coincided with joint Naval exercises by South Korea and the US. The sabre-rattling continues. Veteran Hong Kong democracy leaders have been convicted over protests in a landmark case. Dozens of civilians were killed and 35,000 others displaced after Islamist rebels seized the city of Palma in Mozambique. Former President of Madagascar, Didier Ratsiraka died at the age of 84. The cargo ship Ever Given has final been freed, after it ran aground, blocking the Suez Canal for six days and resulting in a traffic jam of more than 350 vessels.
 
  
Florida:
 
 
The Palm Beach International Boat Show was just held 3/25-3/28 on Flagler Drive. I actually attended.  However, SunFest has been cancelled again. But, the Honda Classic at PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, was just held on 3/15-3/21. Miami Beach officials declared a State of Emergency after large crowds materialized on the beaches last week to celebrate Spring Break. Over 1,000 people were arrested.
 
 
Jokes and Such:
 
Okay, I decided that since you readers are only going to give me dirty jokes that would just get me in trouble, in the context of distanced learning and your kids likely at home on the computer, I would provide you some CLEAN jokes that you can share with them. That’s just how I am J
 
31. Why were they called the “dark ages?”
Because there were a lot of knights.
32. What gets wetter the more it dries?
A towel.
33. Why aren’t koalas considered bears?
They don’t have the right koala-fications.
34. You: What cartoon mouse walks on two feet?
Them: Mickey Mouse
You: What duck walks on two feet?
Them: Donald Duck
You: No, all ducks do!
35. Want to hear a joke about a roof?
The first one’s on the house.
36. What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?
You probably think it’s “R” but it be the “C”.
37. How much teddy bears never want to eat anything?
Because they’re always stuffed.
38. Did you hear about the cheese factory that exploded in France?
There was nothing left but de Brie.
39. Where should you go in the room if you’re feeling cold?
The corner—they’re usually 90 degrees.
40. I can never take my dog to the park because the ducks keep trying to bite him.
I guess that’s what I get for buying a pure bread dog.
 
I promise that they will continue to be corny or cornier, unless you give me some good quasi-clean jokes for adults…

Repo Commentary-03/06/21

About 1999 on Comedy Central for about 5 years. Sitting next to Donald Trump.

It is Day 359 (on 03/05) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. New COVID-19 cases in the US dropped to the lowest rate in 3 months. Vaccine distribution began in the US on 12/14/20 and more than 78 million vaccinations have been administered (as of 3/3/21). The US is currently administering 1.9 million shots per day.

I have designed and crafted an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here:  https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

As I released the 1/19 Repo Commentary,  I think at least two previews of my course and the course syllabus were released on LinkedIn. There was also an announcement made about a new members only training/networking/brainstorming/question-answering group, Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC), created by Pierpoint Financial Consulting, which addresses many needs in our market in a creative, new interactive and immediate yet distanced way.  I will be part of the circle of experts available, my course will be part of the training, and I will be participating in future forums that will be offered. 

So, I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry.  I am consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans.  As I mentioned, an article was released by Global Investor Group/ISF, last Monday, in which I shared my thoughts about transparency and liquidity in the Repo market.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  At least two previews of my course and the course syllabus were released on LinkedIn. There was also an announcement made about a new members only training/networking/brainstorming/question-answering group, Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC), created by Pierpoint Financial Consulting, which addresses many needs in our market in a creative, new interactive and immediate yet distanced way.  I will be part of the circle of experts available, my course will be part of the training, and I will be participating in future forums that will be offered.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (03/05):

  • Custom Chief’s Day (Vanuatu)
  • Day of Physical Culture and Sport (Azerbaigan)
  • Learn from Lei Feng Day (China)
  • St Piran’s Day (Cornwall)
  •  

Just a reminder in the US that Daylight Savings Time begins on 3/14/21, in which we set our clocks one hour ahead, and lose what feels like three hours of sleep. 

Some Famous People Born on (03/05):

  • 1133-Henry II of England
  • 1224-Saint King of Poland
  • 1324-David II of Scotland
  • 1326-Louis I of Hungary
  • 1918-Milt Schmidt, Canadian hockey player, coach, and manager
  • 1923-Laurence Tisch, American businessman, co-founded the Loews Corporation
  • 1927-Jack Cassidy, American actor and singer
  • 1947-Kent Tekulve, American baseball player and sportscaster
  • 1948-Elaine Paige, English singer and actress
  • 1955-Penn Jillette, American magician (Penn & Teller), actor and author
  • 1956-Teena Marie, American singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1958-Andy Gibb, English-Australian singer-songwriter and actor
  • 1963-Joel Osteen, American pastor, author, and television host
  • 1966-Michael Irivin, American football player, sportscaster, actor
  • 1974-Eva Mendes, American model and actress

Daily Weird Facts:

Goosebumps are a defense mechanism. Our body makes the small muscles attached to individual body hairs contract, which leads the hair to stand on end. This inherited ability was used by our ancestors for their coat of body hair to capture air beneath it and in that way retain heat. It also would make our ancestors look larger to predators, with the hairy coats puffed out.  

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”—Winston Churchill 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23/18

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$50.70/barrel on 01/04/21

$56.04/barrel on 01/13

$60.07/barrel on 02/16

$66.34/barrel on 03/05

Oil prices have rallied well past pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station jumped 10 cents in the past 2 weeks, to $2.49/gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates). I did decide to trim this running list to just a few dates:

112.20 on 12/24/18 

102.96 on 12/06/19

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

103.90 on 01/13/21

105.47 on 02/04/21

106.00 on 02/16/21

108.31 on 03/05/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.1426 

12/06/19 at $1.1688

03/11 at $1.1937

05/04 at $1.0903

12/16/20 at $1.2196

01/04 at $1.2246

01/13 at $1.2156

02/04 at $1.2625

02/16 at $1.210

03/05 at $1.1915

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.2655 

12/06/19 at $1.3819

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

12/16/20 at $1.3494

01/04 at $1.3571

01/13 at $1.3635

02/04 at $1.3659

02/16 at $1.3903

03/05 at $1.3841

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24/18

1.2530 on 12/06/19

1.2390 on 01/17/20

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.2752 on 12/16/20

1.2787 on 01/04

1.2703 on 01/13

1.2837 on 02/04

1.2691 on 02/16

1.2659 on 03/05

For Gold prices, I have decided to put this in list form, but maintain a trimmed list of dates with prices.

10/02/19 $1498.70/ounce 

03/11/20 $1,641/ounce

07/27/20 a record $1,944.71/ounce

11/10/20 $1,880.30

11/30/20 $1,774.00 

12/16/20 $1,858.20

01/04/21 a new record $1,948.00

01/13/21 $1,848.70

02/04/21 $1,796.20

02/16/21 $1,793.60

03/05/21 $1,698.70

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25/18 

$6,350 on 10/5/18

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,774.97 on 01/07/19 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

$36,433.00 on 01/13/21

$36,607.50 on 02/04/21

$48,526.90 on 02/16/21

$58,093.71 on 02/21/21

$43,170.01 on 02/28/21

$49,207.43 on 03/05/21

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  But, Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. I don’t know if anyone is listening, but the Relative Strength Index on Bitcoin is approaching the overbought area. Is what I said in the 2/17 Repo Commentary, as Bitcoin broke through $50,000. Well, it hit a record high of $58,093.71 on 2/21/21. But, meteoric rise since COVID-19 began, ended abruptly, as it corrected about 25% in one week to $43,170.01 interim low on 2/28/21. Since then, it has been crawling up again. 

Brexit:

The Financial Times reports that the UK-EU export/import data from France, Germany, and Italy show that trade has fallen sharply, as Brexit disruption really takes hold. With France, exports to the UK were down 13% in January, imports from UK were down 20%. Meanwhile, imports and exports for France increased with other countries. The UK has scrapped the EU cap on COVID-19 grants for struggling businesses. EU is expected to launch legal action against UK “soon” over Northern Ireland protocol. The British government has been relaxing trade rules between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, without the approval of the EU. The US is suspending tariffs on UK exports over Airbus-Boeing trade dispute. Some politicians are warning about Scottish independence and how it would create Brexit 2.0. PM Boris Johnson is promising action to boost the British fish industry. 

Global Financial News:

The CBOE filed with the SEC for approval of a Bitcoin ETF. So far, the SEC has rejected all applications for Bitcoin ETFs, pointing to a variety of problems, including thin liquidity, high volatility, and vulnerability to manipulation. Robinhood has seen a huge increase in the amount of brokerage-held securities it lends to short sellers, loaning out some $1.9 billion worth of client shares as of 12/31/20, up from only $674 million on 12/31/19. It’s interesting that Robinhood is also involved in securities lending. President Biden’s nominee to head the SEC, told the Senate Banking Committee that he would focus on issues including climate-risk disclosure, diversity, payment for order flow and day trading driven by social media, as well as social justice. Rohit Chopra told the Senate Banking Committee that he will focus on student lending, mortgage servicing, and credit reporting, if confirmed as the head of the CFPB. He intends for the agency to take a consumer-centric approach to enforcement. Goldman Sachs says that commodities are still the top hedge against inflation. Fidelity new account onboardings led to a 4.6% boost in profit. The US Treasury has appointed University of California-Berkeley professor Catherine Wolfram, who has conducted energy research in the US, Ghana, India, and Kenya, to the position of deputy assistant secretary for climate and energy economics in the Office of Economic Policy. It is another sign of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s intensifying the Treasury department’s efforts to address climate change. The CBOE also wants the SEC approval to modify rules after discovering overbilling and underbilling of traders dating back years. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. 

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (this is the next list I intend to trim to just important dates):

03/05/21   31,496.30

02/16/21  31,522.75

02/03/21  30,723.60

01/13/21   31,060.47

12/31/20   30,606.48

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

01/13/21 at 3,809.84

02/03/21 at 3,830.17

02/16/21 at 3,923.59

03/05/21 at 3,841.94

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, then backed off, then shot higher again to a new record 02/16.

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,595.06. Nasdaq closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

01/13/21 at 13,128.95 

02/03/21 at 13,610.54

02/16/21 at 14,047.50  new record high

03/05/21 at 12,920.15

The US Treasury market’s calm could be temporary. Derivatives positioning and market indicators show the US Treasury market has steadied, after a recent sell-off. However, it could be short lived, as analysts believe that the Federal Reserve may have to tighten monetary policy sooner, if a quick economic recovery occurs, per Reuters. There have been massive jumps in Treasury yields, since the last Repo Commentary, except in 2years.   

2 YEAR NOTES closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

01/04/21 at 0.11%

01/13/21 at 0.14%

02/03/21 at 0.11%

02/16/21 at 0.11%

03/05/21 at 0.14%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

12/06/19 at 1.64%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

05/10/20 at 0.21%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

01/04/21 at 0.16% record low!

01/13/21 at 0.22%

02/03/21 at 0.17%

02/16/21 at 0.17%

03/05/21 at 0.32%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

12/15/20 at 0.37%

01/04/21 at 0.36%

01/13/21 at 0.48%

02/03/21 at 0.46%

02/16/21 at 0.42%

03/05/21 at 0.79% 

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 0.64%

01/04/21 at 0.64%

01/13/21 at 0.80%

02/03/21 at 0.81%

02/16/21 at 0.76%

03/05/21 at 1.23%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 0.92%

01/04/21 at 0.93%

01/13/21 at 1.10%

02/03/21 at 1.15%

02/16/21 at 1.09%

03/05/21 at 1.56%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 1.65%

01/04/21 at 1.66%

01/13/21 at 1.82%

02/03/21 at 1.92%

02/16/21 at 1.84%

03/05/21 at 2.28%

Housing News:

The Working-From-Home phenomenon continues, as JPMorgan Chase, according to Bloomberg, is now looking to sublet a total of 800,000 square feet of office space within two towers in Manhattan. There are reportedly many Wall Street firms who are said to be reassessing their need for physical office space amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This will likely have an impact on commercial real estate in the money center cities and could impact those cities’ revenues. Bloomberg says that tech-savvy and environmentally conscious millennial preference are poised to dramatically reshape the high-end housing market. According to survey, millennials (adults born from 1981-1996) represent the largest share of homebuyers in the US, at 38%, according to the National Association of Realtors. As my friend and former colleague, Diane Pearl, notes, NYC real estate market recovery has begun! Manhattan had the strongest start to a year since 2013. Signed contracts are up 41% year/year and February’s strength is a continuation of what she saw in January. She chalks it up to “increased affordability, low interest rates, high levels of negotiability, and an improving economy and pandemic response.” She noted that 3 and 4+ bedroom sales increased the most (+80%), while condominium sales drove February’s year/year sales (+66%), and the $5million + luxury market had its best month since May 2017 (+64%). So, it’s very interesting to me to see this surge in residential real estate in NYC, while the rumbles of falling commercial real estate in NYC are being heard. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

Participants in the bond and short-term funding markets are concerned, according to Reuters, that the Federal Reserve may not extend its waiver on the bank Supplementary Leverage Ratio (SLR), set to expire on 3/31/21. If the SLR is allowed into force, according to participants, it could reduce bank demand for government debt, dry up funding for other leveraged investors to buy bonds, and may increase market volatility. Remember, if the waiver expires on 3/31, that is also Japanese year-end, which could lead to even more illiquidity.  

Bloomberg has reported on a study, conducted by the Reserve Bank of India, that shows certain tenors of Overnight Indexed Swap rates, when taken on average, can provide a real approximation of the markets expectation on where repo rates are headed. Speaking to some of my friends at a CCP, I see that the cap on their volumes, without another capital raise by members, is limiting their growth. Speaking to some of my friends at an ETP, they feel fortunate to have had some growth in this difficult environment for everyone. The Work From Home phenomenon certainly ‘begs’ for electronic solutions to trading remotely, and while broker/dealers see the advantages to that, buyside firms have still been slow at signing on.

I’m sure that most of you saw the article I was quoted in a number of times from Global Investor Group/ISF last Monday.  What I went on to say, that didn’t show up, was what I thought Securities Financing individuals might want to keep watch on in 2021. I believe that you will see a couple more articles on that from me in other periodicals. Here’s a list, and I’ll expand on this in further Repo Commentaries.

Clearly, the pandemic forced the migration of workers in our industry from the office (and the money centers) to remote locations (some of them home offices). Along with the migration of schooling and other businesses to working remotely or virtually, this migration of the Repo market is probably not a temporary thing, and certain benefits were unintentionally realized by the companies. There were tax, commercial real estate, technology, meeting efficiencies, and more benefits/issues that were realized during this almost forced Business Continuity Plan.  All of that has further implications for supervision, management, office leasing, employee compensation, home computer compliance, accounting, retention of documents, etc.  

I would proffer that the first issues that the Repo Market in 2021 must address are:  are these further implications identified and being dealt with for remote trading and sales, and is our technology up to the tasks of the benefits & issues highlighted by the remote migration? 

We would have liked to have by now been able to say that technology can meet all of the trading and collateral optimization needs of remote work. But the growth of the widely assumed move to ETPs, ATPs, and CCPs, has been lackluster, driven mostly by Sponsored Repo and industry consolidation. Focusing just on the CCP side, it seems that their very existence, to reduce systemic risk, has actually led to less transparency, more concentration risk, and a self-limiting capital cap on volumes. Is there still a market trust issue in banks or is this because these were vendor-based initiatives and not community-based initiatives.  

As we look at the technology needs for the Repo Market in this environment, do we have enough answers for remote users for elements of the Repo trade cycle? The electronic platforms would be for the quotes, inquiries, and trading. But, where are we on the settlement of trades. I read that the ECB and France think this is one of several areas in the trade cycle, during the massive transfer of assets to Europe from the UK, to take the opportunity to grow a more robust financial structure in Europe, including setting up its own operations and clearing houses. Other parts of the Repo Trade cycle that we need to make sure there is appropriate technology solutions are: counterparty KYC, documentation, AML, counterparty credit risk determination and monitoring, pricing of securities, trade processing, trade confirmation, and the monitoring and completion of trades (including coupon payments, dividends, proxies, substitutions, margin maintenance calls, maturing securities, early unwinds, etc.). Of course, the Repo participants have to make sure that collateral and balance sheet is being optimized.  

Then, there are the Regulations. Not only do we need to look to see if the technology is sufficient to overlay the mountain of current regulations. In 2021, the Repo market may also have to deal with the specter of FSB & FSOC Shadow Banking reforms, EC rumored hedge fund rules, new Best Interest rules, ESG rules, short-selling bans in some countries, potentially that Volcker rule, the Fed finally addressing the Orderly Liquidation Authority for Firesale Risk, ESMA’s SFTR, CSDR, MiFID II, EMIR, Rule 165, Basel III & IV now, Financial Transaction Tax (in France and New Jersey), just to name a few.  

I think another topic for 2021 that the Repo market will have to deal with is the continuing imbalances of supply and liquidity, particularly in the US markets, somewhat due to the Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy, but also the imbalance of collateral suppliers (broker/dealers) due to regulations and competing balance sheet products, and the Fed’s own programs, where it repos collateral to the primary dealers’ cash providers and reverse repos collateral from the primary dealers. In effect, the Fed is running a mismatched repo book, while tinkering with the underlying rates of Repo, RRP, Fed Funds, and Interest On Excess Reserves. I’ve argued that some of those imbalances could be alleviated by having both the buyside collateral providers execute repo with the buyside cash providers, bypassing the handcuffed broker/dealers and the need for the Fed to intervene, but I haven’t seen the expected or potential growth in the recent figures that OFR is reporting and that I am hearing from clients. Perhaps, it’s because there hasn’t been a community-based technological solution that makes it work better with this remote trading. I think this overall supply/liquidity/counterparty diversification issue will be one of the most important for the Repo market in 2021.  

The last issue that comes to mind is the need for distanced continued learning, the need for distanced networking (particularly in like communities), distanced tutorials and conference panels, and distanced basic training. With the pandemic forcing us from our 3 dozen annual conferences, because we can’t have gatherings, and the non-specific panel discussions, and the need for more direct Repo issue Help Desks, if you will, there is a technology need here for the New Networking. I recently became a part of two of the solutions for this growing need in 2021. I have taught the Fundamentals of Repo course for the Virtual Academy designed by Pierpoint Financial, which is an intense 11-week course from my 38-years of experience in the Repo industry, and which accompanies other courses in Collateral Management, Securities Lending, and others to come, taught by other experts. The second solution I am involved in is the very adaptable Pierpoint Alpha Community, which will provide the market with experts on call who can answer member questions on any number of topics, provide tutorials, develop Q&A discussions, and will allow for networking of like institutions to discuss the most important topics of the day. 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences

The Securities Financing industry had all of these annual conferences, several for many years, which used to be attended by thousands of firms, colleagues, and peers. After the financial crisis, the numbers of participants decreased, as firms’ budgets were reduced. Some of the conferences were excellent networking opportunities and some had extremely valuable panels and current information and issues being discussed. Some of the more recent ones focused information and questions on specific sectors to be more effective. There was also a major emphasis recently by many of the conferences on diversity and women’s participation in the industry. Unfortunately, COVID-19 led to the banishing of gatherings worldwide, and these conferences were cancelled or held for free virtually.  That isn’t a viable business plan for conference organizers though, as it can be costly to put these events on. So, our market is looking for other solutions to networking, discussing the pressing issues, and finding solutions for peers. Pierpoint Alpha Community is one such new solution.

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20.  They just did their 2021 version virtually for the first time.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. 
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. 
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. 
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. 
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 
  • RMA cancelled its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management.
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  
  • Risk.net annual conference.. 
  • SIFMA annual meeting.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance was virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is held a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.  

The next FOMC meetings are: 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are in.  

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

The Federal Reserve is increasing attention to banks’ actions in phasing out LIBOR, reportedly calling on the banks for details on their progress in the phase-out, what exposure to LIBOR they still have, their plans for shifting contracts to another benchmark, and fallback language they are using. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are significant earthquakes for just Saturday!: 

03/06 5.2 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.4 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.2 W of Fougamou, Gabon

03/06 4.6 SSW of Severo-Kuril’sk, Russia

03/06 4.9 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.7 ENE of Gisborne, New Zealand

03/06 4.3 N of Yoichi, Japan

03/06 4.9 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.6 ENE of Gisborne, New Zealand

03/06 5.0 Kermadec Islands

03/06 6.1 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.4 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.4 SSW of Taloqan, Afghanistan

03/06 4.9 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.3 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.4 Kermadec Islands

03/06 6.2 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.7 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.7 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.3 Kepulauan Barat Daya, Indonesia

03/06 5.0 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.9 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.5 ENE of Gisborne, New Zealand

03/06 5.1 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.6 ENE of Gisborne, New Zealand

03/06 5.5 Kermadec Islands

03/06 6.1 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.6 Kermadec Islands

03/06 4.8 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.8 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.5 Kermadec Islands

03/06 5.3 SE of Ozernovskiy, Russia

03/06 4.5 NE of Gisborne, New Zealand 

Weather:

Today and tomorrow, South Florida is facing possible heavy rain, hail and even a cyclone, with an approaching cold front. This is after a week of high temperatures in the 80s. A Tsunami watch in Hawaii has been canceled, though the state remains alert after Pacific earthquake of 8.1 in the western Pacific. A rare storm hit San Diego neighborhoods in rain and hail. Rain and high elevation snow is expected for the Pacific Northwest to northern California, starting next week. Lake effect snow will be prevalent near the Lower Great Lakes this weekend. There is an elevated fire weather threat to the High Plains today. 

For those people near the ocean, particularly in Florida, rip currents become more prevalent at this time of year. So, here is a Public Service Announcement from me (and the National Weather Service) on how one should break the hold of a rip current to avoid drowning. The safest way is to order a drink and sit on the sandy beach. However, if you are not worried about sharks, sea lice, occasional ocean-swimming alligators or crocodiles, and decide to go in the water:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

Instead, 2020 was a record year, not only with the pandemic, but also in meteorology. There were 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and 2020 was also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names in the alphabetical system. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was 250% more active than average. 

Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates there have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 of that year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams play each other in the Spring Training facility that they share (and where I sing the National Anthem at), I was delighted to sing a few games there, before the 2020 Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) was shut down about 3/15, with the pandemic. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in another exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

For 2021, it was decided by MLB that in the Grapefruit League (Spring Training-Florida), the teams on the East coast would only play each other and the teams on the West coast would only play each other. So, the Astros, Cardinals, Marlins, Mets, and Nationals will play each other, and not travel to other ballparks, just these 3 parks in West Palm Beach, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.  They will play 24 games in 30 days.  The other 8 teams in the Grapefruit League in Florida on the West Coast will be split into two groups (Tigers/Yankees/Phillies/Blue Jays and Braves/Red Sox/Twins/Rays) and will play each other 28 games over the 30-day span. MLB eliminated the use of college baseball teams in the revised schedules, because they haven’t been subject to MLB testing protocols. Also eliminated were split-squad games, which allow for the evaluation of more players. I see another ‘asterisk’ season on the way. The exhibition season will begin for all teams on 2/28. I was honored to be chosen by the Spring Training Facility of the Cardinals and Marlins to come in and be officially videotaped for the scoreboard performance of the National Anthem and “God Bless America”, but I don’t know at which game they will play my videotaped performance. I requested a Mets vs Cardinals game. 

MLB owners and the MLB Players Association agreed on a 154-game schedule for 2021, with the season start to be delayed by one month. Most teams opened their Spring Training this week. Games begin on 2/28. Because the teams are only going to run their Spring Training games at about 20% crowd capacity, that only leaves 1,000-2,000 seats available, and they are giving season ticket holders priority. So, I thought about going to a Red Sox game in Fort Myers, a Cardinals game in Jupiter, or a Nationals game in West Palm Beach. Most of the games are already sold out, and those that aren’t, have a few terrible seats offered at $400-500!  For a Spring Training game!  For once, I won’t even have seats for the game at which they are showing my video of the National Anthem. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. Well, the big golf news, again, belongs to the off-the-course life of Tiger Woods. He had a terrible one-car accident in California on Tuesday afternoon, plunging his vehicle off a cliff and into a rollover. Strangely, there were no skid marks, as if he didn’t attempt to brake (or his brake lines were cut).  He was said to be travelling at too high a rate of speed and that particular area has seen frequent accidents.  He was rushed to the hospital for 7 hours of surgery on his legs, as he badly fractured both legs in multiple places, requiring pins and rods to be put in. Originally, rescuers said that Tiger tried to extricate himself and help them get himself out. But, now, officials say that he was unconscious when they arrived. So, his second comeback, this one which had featured no recurring back or knee injuries (or incidents or scandals), has come to an abrupt halt. Analysts now are speculating on whether he will be able to walk again, rather on whether he will golf again or catch Jack Nicklaus’s record of 82 wins on Tour. So, we are one month away from the Masters, and one of the perennial favorites, Tiger Woods, won’t be there. There was some doubt he would have played in this Masters, anyway, since he was coming off of 12/23/20 back surgery. Since his debut in the Masters in 1997 as an amateur, Tiger has only missed the Masters 3 times (2014, 2016,, and 2017).  But, now there is no doubt. Jordan Spieth is peaking again, and DJ and Brooks Koepka have started winning again. Bryson DeChambeau has backed off the milkshakes and is getting leaner, and has put the 48-inch driver back in the garage, working instead with some other technology to make his drives more accurate. He has slipped from No.5 in the world to No.10. The next tournament is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL, where Tyrrell Hatton is the defending champion. That started Thursday and ends Sunday. Next week, The Players Championship will be played at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, where Rory McIlroy is the defending champion. Then the tour swings down here in Florida, with the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. 

LPGA great, Annika Sorenstam has committed to play in this month’s Gainbridge LPGA, which will be at her home course of Lake Nona, in Orlando, FL. The Hall-of-Famer has not competed in an official tournament since 2008. She played in an unofficial tournament in Orlando in January, in the celebrity division. The LPGA on Monday released a list of rule changes for this season, including a couple that benefit non-members who win Majors. Rangefinders on Tour is a hot topic of debate for pro caddies..  

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL.

Super Bowl LV was played in Tampa Bay on Sunday, with the Bucs acting as home team, the first time that a Super Bowl was played in the city where one of the teams was from. Despite the odds against it and his age against him, QB Tom Brady and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl over the Chiefs, 31-9. Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP, as he won his 7th Super Bowl, more than any franchise, let alone any player, in 10 trips to the Super Bowl. 

Former NFL Pro Bowler, Kellen Winslow II, has been sentenced to 14 years for sex crimes. The Browns picked up QB Carson Wentz from the Eagles, despite having QB Baker Mayfield. Former All-Pro LB Thomas Davis said he will sign a one-day contract with Panthers before retiring. Giants have released WR Golden Tate and LB David Mayo. The Saints have terminated contracts of TE Jared Cook and TE Josh Hill. Raiders GM said he would “pound the table” to keep QB Derek Carr. Cardinals GM said the start of the next season is not necessarily a deadline for star QR Larry Fitzgerald to make a decision on his future. Lions signed former Raiders WR Tyrell Williams to a one-year deal. NFL owners are considering having roughing the passer penalties reviewable. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season is now in full swing, although not always with fans in the stadiums. The first major of the year, the Australian Open was just played, delayed 3 weeks by COVID-19, and ended 2/21.  Novak Djokovic successfully defended his Men’s singles title, claiming his 18th Grand Slam title, edging closer to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who both have 20 Grand Slam titles each.  Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev in the Final. In Women’s singles, defending champion, Sofia Kenin, lost in the 2nd round.  The  Final was won by Naomi Osaka, her 4th Grand Slam title, after defeating Jennifer Brady (in her first Grand Slam final). Spectators were kept from the site after the 3rd round match between Djokovic and Taylor Fritz.  

NCAA Basketball

The 2020-2021 season began in November. The 2021 NCAA tournament will be entirely in Indianapolis.  We are deep into it now, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  The bubble teams, like Michigan State, are jockeying to get into the top 68 for the March tournament. Michigan State has helped itself by knocking off No.4 Illinois, No.2 Ohio State, and Indiana in 4 of the last 5 games.  It looked like they would miss the tournament for the first time in 23 seasons. Looking at the rankings, I find it interesting that Gonzaga is the only undefeated, that Big 10 is represented by 6 teams, that the rankings look more like the usual football rankings, and that there are a few state rivalries represented (Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma).  Also, missing from the list are perennial top teams (Michigan State, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, etc.)  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 02/07/21:

  1.  Gonzaga (24-0) 
  2.  Michigan (18-2)
  3.  Baylor (19-1)
  4.  Illinois (19-6)
  5.  Iowa (18-7)
  6.  West Virginia (17-7)
  7.  Ohio State (18-7)
  8.  Alabama (20-6)
  9.  Houston (20-3)
  10.  Villanova (16-4)
  11.  Florida State (15-4)
  12.  Arkansas (20-5)
  13.  Kansas (18-8)
  14.  Creighton (17-7)
  15.  Texas (15-7)
  16.  Oklahoma (14-8)
  17.  Oklahoma State (17-6)
  18.  Texas Tech (16-8)
  19.  San Diego State (20-4)
  20.  Loyola IL (21-4)
  21.  Virginia (16-6)
  22.  Virginia Tech (15-5)
  23.  Purdue (17-8)
  24.  Colorado (19-7)
  25.  Wisconsin (16-10)

A new league, the Overtime Elite League is making some news, proposing to pay high school basketball players $100,000 salaries and a focus toward a pro basketball career, which organizers feel might me more appealing to players than college basketball programs. The OTE would be backed by a sports media company, Overtime, and is obviously intensifying the debate over whether student athletes should be paid. Overtime intends to compete directly with the NCAA for the nation’s top high school basketball players, by employing about 30 of them, to circumvent the college sports scene. Overtime will offer each athlete, some as young as 16, a minimum of $100,000 annually, as well as a signing bonus and some shares in the overall company. The company will also provide athletes with health and disability insurance, and will set aside $100,000 in college scholarship money for each player, in case any decide not to pursue the NBA.  Overtime was founded in 2016 and got an early investment from David Stern, the former NBA commissioner. Its videographers have been filming high school players all over the country. The larger debate is whether it is appropriate for pro sports leagues to grab young athletes out of high school and college with big checks, or for colleges to exploit the talents of athletes for big revenues without compensating the athletes. Since 2006 draft, the NBA has not been able to go after athletes until they turn 19 or one year after their high school graduation. 

NHL:

Last season (2019-2020) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on the asterisk season on 10/2/19. The puck dropped (again) to conclude this past season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) was delayed and started 1/13/21.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There have already been many cancelled or postponed games, due to COVID-19 racing through some of the teams. There was also divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic.  However, this realignment has been discussed for a few years now. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. This is this season’s odd configuration:

NORTH (all Canadian) (their current standings 21-25 games into the regular season)

Toronto Maple Leafs

Winnipeg Jets

Edmonton Oilers

Montreal Canadiens (fallen recently)

Calgary Flames

Vancouver Canucks

Ottawa Senators

WEST(and their current standings 19-23 games into the regular season)

Las Vegas Golden Knights

St. Louis Blues (rallying lately)

Colorado Avalanche

Minnesota Wild (big rally lately)

Arizona Coyotes

LA Kings

San Jose Sharks

Anaheim Mighty Ducks (not so mighty lately)

CENTRAL (and their current standings 17-25 games into the regular season)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Carolina Hurricanes

Florida Panthers

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Nashville Predators

Detroit Red Wings

Dallas Stars (have been sliding recently)

EAST (and their current standings 18-22 games into the regular season)

Washington Capitals (have surged recently 4 spots)

New York Islanders

Boston Bruins (faded recently)

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

New York Rangers

New Jersey Devils

Buffalo Sabres

Nathan MacKinnon and his wrist shot returned to the Avalanche less than 2 weeks ago, and Tuesday night, suffered a hit to the head as he was skating to the bench by Sharks’ Joachim Blichfield, who was ejected. Unfortunately, MacKinnon did not return after the blow to the head.  Fan favorite and tallest man ever to play in the NHL (at 6’9”), Zdeno Chara, returned to Boston with his new team, the Capitals, to play his old team for the first time since leaving in the off-season. As with everything surrounding Chara, the Boston arena and fans gave him a huge welcome back, with the Bruins putting a touching tribute video together, featuring his career highlights and thank you messages from fans, although there were no fans in the building. The Capitals won the game in a shootout. It was the Capitals 4th straight win. The Golden Knights just won their 4th straight. The Maple Leafs just swept 3 games from the Oilers. The Kings have also lost 3 straight. 

Speaking of the fact that COVID-19 precautions are still preventing fans from attending games, it doesn’t seem to be preventing NHL teams from having those non-present fans from coughing up another $224.99 for brand-new official 3rd jerseys for various teams. I caught a piece of a St. Louis Blues game and saw an awful jersey on the players that, no doubt, fans are feeling obligated to buy. Sports merchandising (from a fan who has fallen into this trap many times before) either for team’s new jerseys, new 3rd jerseys, or for star players just before they leave for free agency, is a huge business and closet-filler. Several teams have new or alternate jerseys for the 2020-2021 season, in addition to the Adidas Reverse Retro alternate jerseys announced for all 31 NHL teams on 11/16/20. Here are just some of the new jerseys:

Ottawa Senators                                                                                              Dallas Stars

Anaheim Ducks                                                                                              Arizona Coyotes

Buffalo Sabres                                                                                                Carolina Hurricanes

St. Louis Blues                                                                                                           Toronto Maple Leafs

Boston Bruins                                                                                                 Los Angeles Kings

NBA:

Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. Pacers’ T.J. McConnell broke the NBA record with 9 first-half steals, leading to a unique triple-double.  Only 72 players in NBA history had managed to record 9 steals in a complete game, and he did it in just one half! So, with 16 points, 13 assists, and 10 steals in the game, he became only the 11th triple-double with steals in NBA history. Eyes are on the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, in which LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be the Captains drafting players. We’ve played 33-36 games so far in the regular season, and here are the current standings (top 8 of each conference):

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Philadelphia 76ers

Brooklyn Nets

Milwaukee Bucks

Boston Celtics

New York Knicks

Miami Heat

Charlotte Hornets

Toronto Raptors

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Utah Jazz

Phoenix Suns

LA Clippers

LA Lakers

Portland Trailblazers

San Antonio Spurs

Denver Nuggets

Dallas Mavericks

Racing:

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2020, Chase Elliott won. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the 3rd father-son duo to win the title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale).  In 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2021 regular season began with the Daytona 500 on 2/14/21. Here is the 2021 schedule and winners:

02/09/21 Busch Clash at Daytona-Kyle Busch

02/11/21 Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona-Aric Almirola

02/11/21 Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona-Austin Dillon

02/14/21 DAYTONA 500-Michael McDowell

02/21/21 O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona-Christopher Bell

02/28/21 DIXIE VODKA 400 at Homestead-Miami-William Byron

03/07/21 Pennzoil 400 by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas-

03/14/21 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Phoenix-

03/21/21 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta-

03/28/21 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol-

Formula One began 2020 with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown. Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. There will be a 23-race F1 calendar for 2021. It does not begin until 3/28/21. Here is the 2021 schedule and here are the winners:

03/28/21-Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix-

04/18/21-Italy-

05/02/21-TBD

05/09/21-Spain-

05/23/21-Monaco-

06/06/21-Azerbaijan-

06/13/21-Canada-

06/27/21-France-

07/04/21-Austria-

07/18/21-Great Britain-

08/02/21-Hungary-

08/29/21-Belgium-

09/05/21-Netherlands-

09/12/21-Italy-

09/26/21-Russia-

10/03/21-Singapore-

10/10/21-Japan-

10/24/21-United States

10/31/21-Mexico-

11/07/21-Brazil-

11/21/21-Australia-

12/05/21-Saudi Arabia-

12/12/21-Abu Dhabi-

IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden. The 2021 season does not begin until mid-April. Here is the schedule and the winners:

04/17/21-Birmingham Barber Motorsports Park

04/24/21-St. Petersburg Street Course

05/01/21-Texas Motor Speedway

05/14/21-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-GP 1

05/29/21-Indy 500

06/12/21-Detroit Raceway on Belle Isle

06/19/21-Road America

07/03/21-Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

07/10/21-Toronto Exhibition Place

08/07/21-Nashville Street Course

08/13/21-Indianapolis GP 2

08/20/21-Gateway Motorsports Park

09/11/21-Portland International Raceway

09/18/21-Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

09/25/21-Streets of Long Beach

Travel News:

In Saudi Arabia, Six Flags Quiddiya is opening the world’s fastest, tallest, and longest roller coaster. Miami is creating a new park underneath its downtown rail lines. It will be similar to New York’s High Line park. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is giving away 8 seats for a free trip on his DearMoon spaceflight. A passenger is facing a $27,500 fine for reportedly assaulting a flight attendant who was enforcing face mask rules. The CDC has just added some Caribbean islands to its designation of “very high” risk for travel, now including (as of 2/2/21):

Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Barbuda, Bonaire, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma (Myanmar), Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Curacao, Denmark, Easter Island, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Finland, French Guinea, French Polynesia, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guernsey, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mayotte, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sint Maarten, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Maderia Islands, The Netherlands, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and cruise ships.  (After typing all that out, I’m wondering if it would have just been easier to name the ones that were okay to travel to.) 

The CDC uses Travel Health Notices to alert travelers to health threats around the world and has adapted its 3-level notice system to a 4-level system for COVID-19 and updated criteria for each level. 

Level 4-Very High level of COVID-19, travelers should avoid all travel to these destinations

Level 3-High level of COVID-19, travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations

Level 2-Moderate level of COVID-19, travelers are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations

Level 1-Low level of COVID-19, travelers should wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart from people who are not from your travel group, avoid crowds, wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer, and watch for signs of illness

A body found 465 feet below Grand Canyon rim is believed to be a missing man. A Delta flight had to be diverted to Sacramento, after a passenger died on the flight. 

Health News:  

As of this morning (03/04), globally, more than 2,562,081 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 115,311,727 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 28.7 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 518,482 (more than US soldiers that died in WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War, combined). The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (259,271), Mexico (188,044), India (157,435), and UK (124,017). As I mentioned at the start, more than 78 million vaccinations have been administered in the US (as of 3/3/21). However, those figures were for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use and require a two-shot regimen spaced out by 3 or 4 weeks. The third vaccine, by Johnson & Johnson, was authorized on 2/27/21 and requires only one shot, but its overall efficacy is less than the other two regimes, maybe around 75%. However, it is just as effective at keeping people from requiring intensive care and a ventilator. While the speed of vaccination has improved since it started in December, to 1.9 million shots per day, there are still millions more doses distributed to states than have been administered to people. One of the problems is that the first 2 vaccines required very cold storage, while the latter one that just came out, does not. You are, no doubt, hearing more about the variants of the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 (UK, South Africa, Brazil, New York, California, etc.), which so far scientists believe the current vaccines will cover. However, scientists are beginning to agree that, because of the likelihood of more variants, that COVID-19 booster shots each year may be required, similar to taking the Flu shot. The reason behind that is that, unlike say a vaccine for measles, which works all the time, influenza shots have to be tweaked each year to identify the circulating strains, coordinated by the WHO, so as to change the structure of the vaccine every year. 

And so, the next COVID-19 controversy has ensued. 5 states (Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota), so far, have decided to drop the mandatory mask-wearing, despite the fact that only 15.6% of Americans have gotten shots and most have not had the 2nd necessary shot. This is also despite strong warnings from the CDC that people continue to wear their masks. These states will join 11 other states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee) that never required face coverings statewide.  I personally think it is putting people who haven’t had the shots at unnecessary risk (like me). I’m hoping to be in the next group that gets the shots, which will allow me to go back into my formal gym, instead of makeshift one at home. The Governor of Texas responded to criticism of ending the mandatory mask wearing, saying, “We no longer need government running our lives.” On 3/10, the mask order will end in Texas and businesses can reopen at full capacity. Texas and Mississippi’s announcements of lifting the mandate on 3/10 and 4/9 respectively and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity, were decisions slammed by President Joe Biden as “Neanderthal thinking.” A spokesman for the Neanderthals, formerly employed by GEICO, found the President’s remarks offensive and prejudiced and is considering legal action to change the name of the Neanderthals to “Hairy Hominids”, to remove the negative connotation about their intelligence, which they have endured for tens of thousands of years, originally from the Cro-Magnons. Some states are now prioritizing obesity patients for the COVID-19 vaccine. California will open outdoor attractions in April. 

Zoom Fatigue is a new real malady. Looking at the CDC website, I see that there is a Level-3 travel advisory for Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to outbreaks of Ebola. It also recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Venezuela, due to outbreaks of infections diseases and inadequate healthcare. The CDC also has a Level-2 travel advisory for Asia and Africa, due to polio outbreaks, and recommends travelers be vaccinated fully against polio. There is also an outbreak of Yellow Fever in Nigeria.

Animal News:

Okay, let’s start with this.  Lady Gaga’s dogwalker was shot by a semiautomatic gun, and 2 French bulldogs of her 3 dogs in his charge were stolen by a madman! Police think this could become more commonplace, because Gaga decided to put up a $500,000 reward for the return of the dogs.  Magically, they reappeared on Gaga’s doorstep. The dogwalker survived (and should get some kind of medal). He saved one of the dogs from being dogknapped. The scene took place in Los Angeles, not too far from where Lady Gaga filmed the 3 dogs dressed up in Chia pet costumes for Halloween. I think you get where I am going with this. Just post on social media your most precious belongings and then when you are not at home. Starbucks has introduced plant-based Impossible breakfast sandwich in the US. China has upgraded pangolin protections and removed its scales from traditional medicine list. California protections for farmed animals have been upheld in court yet again.  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) published a report that focused on the intensive animal agriculture as a major risk factor in the rise of new pandemics. Scientists are monitoring pets, livestock, and wildlife to work out where SARS-CoV-2 could hide and whether it could resurge. Scientists are worried that the virus could leap from people into wild animals, especially after a healthy wild mink last month tested positive in Utah. Strong evidence suggests that the virus originated in horseshoe bats and eventually jumped to humans. Jumping back to wild animals could take us full circle. Those free-roaming infected animals could then become a source of new flare-ups. It’s already been seen in domesticated and captured animals, such as cats, dogs, pumas, gorillas, snow leopards, and farmed mink. Denver animal control is investigating a video of a dog being dragged by a moving pickup truck.  23 more dogs were seized from a man already facing 75 animal cruelty charges. Scientists have discovered a giant, luminous deep-sea predator: sharks that glow in the dark. A cat that vanished 15 years ago has been reunited with the owner. The bad news is that it already coughed up 3 weird hairballs! Florida veterinarians remove a shoe from the stomach of a hungry crocodile. That’s just to remind you that we have crocodiles, along with the alligators, and actually a few caiman from South America. Enjoy your time here. My buddy was fishing my spot on the neighboring golf course the other day and caught 4 cottonmouth snakes. Not something you want to deal with. We have 5 poisonous snake species here in Florida, to go along with the panthers, 2 poisonous spiders, bears, crocodiles, caiman, alligators, and of course sharks. And, stay away from boar and deer. ‘undervalued’ freshwater fish are in decline with a third of species facing extinction in the world. By now you heard, (and I left it to the end for various reasons), an Alaska woman was attacked by a bear while using her outhouse, from below. On 2/13/21, the woman sat down on the outhouse toilet and a bear bit her. Her brother heard her screaming and rushed 150 feet from the ‘yurt’ to tend to her wound. They thought she had been bitten by a squirrel or a mink. Wait a minute, how many different species may attack you in an outhouse ‘from below’??? okay, I really just thought of this, I couldn’t use an outhouse now, or maybe even a toilet, without a buttler. LOL! Some Alaskan animal authorities think that she may actually have been swatted by the bear’s paw and huge claws, rather than bitten, not that that makes it any better. I keep seeing the pictures of Floridians who get a surprise by a large python or boa that wind up in their toilets or biting them from below. Now, I’m going to be thinking about bears too!

Entertainment News:

Netflix has decided not to make a Season 2 for Queen’s Gambit, a top 20 series of 159 Netflix series, according to Rotten Tomatoes, and one of 14 series I have binge-watched during the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, I want things to continue, like The Mandalorian (Disney+), Ozarks (Netflix), The Crown (Netflix), Away (Netflix), etc. But, I think the ending of Queen’s Gambit was perfect and that they are stopping while they are still on top.  Away was not renewed either, but it too had reached its objective, literally landing on Mars, so it was a logical ending for the series. Eddie Murphy’s COMING 2 AMERICA is being released soon. The first was a cult classic, regarding the fictional kingdom Zamunda. The original cast returns, except one actress who has passed. The reviews are mixed because the sequel, with a nod to modern sensibilities and movements, isn’t nearly as funny or edgy as the original. There are some really cool cameos and notably, Gladys Knight, albeit Pip-less. WandaVision capped off Marvel’s version of a love story with an emotional finale. I haven’t gotten into this one yet. Lamar Odom got emotional watching the show Khloe & Lamar. Kind of along the same subject line, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have announced that they are getting divorced. Did they finish naming their kids by all points of the compass? I hate to come up with 3 Kardashian news items in the same Repo Commentary (Kardashian overload), but the Kardashians have decided to end their reality show after this season. Paris Hilton got a rare apology from comedienne Sarah Silverman for her jokes about jail. So far, six books written by Dr. Seuss have been removed from childrens’ curriculums, because they have been deemed offensive to a number of groups of readers. The SAG Awards will be a one-hour pre-taped TV special this year. Janet Jackson’s two-part documentary is set to air on A&E and Lifetime. Jennette McCurdy, star of iCarly, has quit acting and resents her career. John Oates of Hall & Oates has revived a music festival to fight pandemic-related hunger crisis. Maria Bello says goodbye to NCIS. The Golden Globe ratings sunk to a record low, sounding a warning to the upcoming Oscars. Didn’t we think some 38 annual awards shows was way more than enough anyway? It seems the entertainment industry was now giving out ‘participation awards’. Chris Harrison, infamous host of ABC’s The Bachelor franchise, has stepped aside from the show temporarily and apologized on Good Morning America to Michael Strahan, but did not explain why he defended contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s antebellum plantation-themed photos from 2018 during an interview with former Bachelorettestar and current Extra host Rachel Lindsay. He said, “I’m sorry to Rachel Lindsay and the black community.” He said that he now believes, “Antebellum parties are not OK. Past, present, and future, knowing what that represents is unacceptable.” Lindsay is now reportedly being bullied online, and Harrison addressed that as well, urging Bachelor Nation fans to stop “throwing hate” at her.  Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s daughter is now a billionaire. Julia Roberts’ daughter has turned 16 and is the spitting image of her mom. Nicolas Cage, 57, has tied the knot for the 5thtime. 

Technology & Space News:

NASA’s Perseverance rover, carrying the Ingenuity helicopter, successfully landed on Mars. Assuming all goes well, it will return to Earth in 10 years.  PayPal is reportedly in early discussions to purchase Curv, a specialist in digital currency transfers and storage, per Bloomberg. Swedish payments startup, Klarna, raised $1 billion in a round of funding that almost tripled its valuation to $31 billion, making it the most valuable startup in Europe. The company’s CEO said Klarna is considering going public through a direct listing. The mobile phone games business has really taken off. Over 2.5 billion people play mobile games every day (I play Words With Friends). But, just like movies, producing a blockbuster is not that easy. Google recently shut down its Stadia gaming studio and Amazon’s studio is struggling to produce a hit. Frank Gibeau’s turnaround of Zynga has been extraordinary, in light of the difficulty others have faced. He has quintupled Zynga’s share price and more than doubled its revenues, since he took over in 2016. Zynga was founded in 2007, and saw early success with Farmville and Zynga poker on Facebook. But, they were slow to get into mobile games. In 2013, co-founder and CEO Mark Pincus turned the helm over to Microsoft’s Don Mattrick, but by 2015, Pincus returned to the helm. Then, he found Frank from EA Mobile. Frank prioritized building out mobile games. Now he is in growth mode, buying Peak Game’s card games division, Gram Games, and 80% of Small Giant Games. In 2020, Zynga bought the rest of Peak Games and 80% of Rollic games. At the end of 2020, Zynga issued $875 million in convertible notes, to replenish its acquisition war chest. In Q4 2020, Zynga had a record profit of $616 million. And, by the way, Zynga owns Words With Friends. Microsoft is trying to take Zoom meetings to the next level with hologram meetings. That reminds me of STAR WARS Jedi Council meetings. The US is warning of an “active threat”, as Microsoft identified a State-sponsored group operating out of China that is breaching its email servers. 

US News:

The Biden administration made changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) aimed at reaching underserved communities, however the program does not REQUIRE collection of the key demographic data to gauge the program’s effectiveness. The SBA is now asking applicants to voluntarily submit demographic information.  Democratic Congressman Swalwell is suing President Trump over alleged role in inciting the violence. Capitol Police are requesting that the thousands of National Guardsmen stay for another 60 days. The Unemployment Rate fell to 6.2% last month. The US Senate has passed the latest $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. It has lowered the maximum annual income for citizens to qualify for a $1400 check this time. Also, this relief bill will focus more on the municipalities. More than 4,000 migrant children were transferred in January to the custody of the US Office of Refugee Resettlement, under the Biden administration, away from their relatives. 

Bankruptcy:

No news today.

International News:

Porfirije was enthroned as the 46th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. About 300 girls were kidnapped from a secondary school by armed bandits, and later released, in Zamfara, Nigeria. Hundreds of people gathered in an illegal COVID-19 protest in Stockholm. The Pope denounced extremism on his historic visit to Iraq, just days after Iran retaliated against a US base in Syria with a dozen rockets. The Pope held the first mass in Iraq. Mardi Gras is being held in Sydney, Australia. 

Florida:

Mar-a-Lago news again, as a costly dismantling job was done on-property to remove the helipad that had been installed for President Trump, so that he could land at an air force base near Satellite Beach and take the chopper Marine One to Mar-a-Lago, whenever he came down here. Instead, he chose to fly into the commercial airport, Palm Beach International, with AirForce One, and disturb all the airplane and local vehicle traffic to get to the resort each time. Just pointing out that, after a year of having every concert and event in Florida cancelled, some things are being held this year. Spring Training for MLB has begun with stadiums at 15-20% capacity, due to COVID-19. Some concerts are coming to Florida. The Palm Beach International Boat Show will be held 3/25-3/28 on Flagler Drive. SunFest has been cancelled again. But, the Honda Classic at PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, will be held on 3/15-3/21. 

Jokes and Such:

Okay, I decided that since you people are only going to give me dirty jokes that would just get me in trouble, in the context of distanced learning and your kids likely at home on the computer, I would provide you some CLEAN jokes that you can share with them. That’s just how I am J

21. Two windmills are standing on a wind farm. One asks, ‘What’s your favorite kind of music?’

The other replies, ‘I’m a big metal fan.’

22. The first rule of the Alzheimer’s club is…

Wait, where are we again?

23. I took the shell off of my racing snail, thinking it would make him faster.

But if anything, it made him more sluggish.

24. What do you get from a pampered cow?

Spoiled milk.

25. How does NASA organize a party?

They planet.

26. What’s the best thing about Switzerland?

I don’t know, but the flag is a big plus.

27. You know, it was so cold in D.C. the other day, I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets.

28. How many tickles does it take to get an octopus to laugh?

Ten tickles

29. Why doesn’t Dracula have any friends?

Well, honestly, he’s a real pain in the neck.

30. My teachers told me I’d never amount to much since I procrastinate so much.

I told them, “Just you wait!”I promise that they will continue to be corny or cornier, unless you give me some good quasi-clean jokes for adults…

Repo Commentary-02/17/21

It is Day 343 (on 02/17) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. New COVID-19 cases in the US dropped to the lowest rate in 3 months. Some 44 million Americans are now vaccinated.

This is my latest project. It is a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here:  https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

As I released the 1/19 Repo Commentary,  I think at least two previews of my course and the course syllabus were released on LinkedIn. There was also an announcement made about a new members only training/networking/brainstorming/question-answering group, Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC), created by Pierpoint Financial Consulting, which addresses many needs in our market in a creative, new interactive and immediate yet distanced way.  I will be part of the circle of experts available, my course will be part of the training, and I will be participating in future forums that will be offered. 

So, I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry.  I am consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans.  As I mentioned, an article was released by Global Investor Group/ISF, in which I shared my thoughts about what we all need to pay attention to in 2021.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (02/17):

  • Monday was Presidents’ Day in the US, an amalgam of the former Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday separate holidays in the past. Clearly, I’m not bitter about losing a holiday.
  • Independence Day in Kosovo
  • Revolution Day in Libya

In case you were completely oblivious, Sunday was the Hallmark Holiday, Valentine’s Day, which celebrates relationships, not a St. Valentine or the Valentine’s Day Massacre of the mafia in Chicago. 

Some Famous People Born on (02/17):

  • 1028-Al-Juwayni, Persian scholar and imam
  • 1758-John Pinkerton, Scottish antiquarian, cartographer, author, numismatist and historian
  • 1781-Rene Laennec, French physician, invented the stethoscope
  • 1843-Aaron Montgomery Ward, American businessman, founded Montgomery Ward
  • 1908-Red Barber, American sportscaster
  • 1925-Hal Holbrook, American actor and director (just passed)
  • 1931-Buddy Ryan, American football coach
  • 1936-Jim Brown, American football player and actor
  • 1937-Mary Ann Mobley, American model and actress, Miss America 1959
  • 1942-Huey P. Newton, American activist, co-founded the Black Panther Party
  • 1949-Dennis Green, American football player and coach
  • 1954-Rene Russo, American actress
  • 1962-Lou Diamon Phillips, American actor and director
  • 1963-Larry the Cable Guy, American comedian and voice actor
  • 1963-Michael Jordan, American basketball player, actor, and owner
  • 1966-Luc Robitaille, Canadian ice hockey player, manager, actor, and my friend
  • 1971-Denise Richards, American model and actress
  • 1972-Billie Joe Armstrong, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and producer
  • 1974-Jerry O’Connell, American actor, director, and producer
  • 1981-Paris Hilton, American model, media personality, actress, singer, DJ, author and businesswoman
  • 1991-Ed Sheeran, English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer

Daily Weird Facts:

The iconic stone heads that protrude from a hill on Easter Island are a pretty familiar sight to most people, but did you know that there are full bodies below those heads? Archaeologists earlier in 2010s, studying the hundreds of stone statues on the Pacific Island, excavated two of the figures and found that they had full torsos, which measure as high as 33 feet. 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”—Alfred Lord Tennyson 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23/18

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

$50.70/barrel on 01/04

$56.04/barrel on 01/13

$55.95/barrel on 02/04

$60.07/barrel on 02/16

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has eased up 14 cents these past 2 weeks, at $2.39/gallon. I’m trying to decide if I am going to keep this running list of Oil price closes or not (above). I’m not sure if it has value and I want to trim down the Repo Commentary.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates). I did decide to trim this running list to just a few dates:

112.20 on 12/24/18 

102.96 on 12/06/19

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

103.90 on 01/13/21

105.47 on 02/04/21

106.00 on 02/16/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.1426 

12/06/19 at $1.1688

03/11 at $1.1937

05/04 at $1.0903

12/16/20 at $1.2196

01/04 at $1.2246

01/13 at $1.2156

02/04 at $1.2625

02/16 at $1.2106

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.2655 

12/06/19 at $1.3819

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

12/16/20 at $1.3494

01/04 at $1.3571

01/13 at $1.3635

02/04 at $1.3659

02/16 at $1.3903

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24/18

1.2530 on 12/06/19

1.2390 on 01/17/20

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.2752 on 12/16/20

1.2787 on 01/04

1.2703 on 01/13

1.2837 on 02/04

1.2691 on 02/16

For Gold prices, I have decided to put this in list form, but maintain a trimmed list of dates with prices.

10/02/19 $1498.70/ounce 

03/11/20 $1,641/ounce

07/27/20 a record $1,944.71/ounce

11/10/20 $1,880.30

11/30/20 $1,774.00 

12/16/20 $1,858.20

01/04/21 a new record $1,948.00

01/13/21 $1,848.70

02/04/21 $1,796.20

02/16/21 $1,793.60

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25/18 

$6,350 on 10/5/18

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,774.97 on 01/07/19 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

$36,433.00 on 01/13/21

$36,607.50 on 02/04/21

$48,526.90 on 02/16/21

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  But, Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. After sneaking up again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through to a new record, where it is now. Since I last reported two weeks ago, when it was 6-7 times higher than the low from March, it has more than doubled again (now nearly 10 times higher than that March low)! JPMorgan now says that Bitcoin could rally to $100,000! Well now that’s a distinct possibility, after the announcement from BNY Mellon two weeks ago that the clearing bank plans to begin holding, transferring, and issuing cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, for its institutional clients this year. The announcement, which follows similar ones this week by Mastercard and Tesla, also embracing cryptocurrencies, propelled the price of Bitcoin to a record at the time of $48,663. However, Bitcoin has already surpassed $50,000 in intraday trading Tuesday. The record-shattering 2021 rally has extended to 74%. A Gartner survey shows that corporate CFOs are intending NOT to buy Bitcoin. Gold bug Peter Schiff has given Bitcoin permission to trade at $100,000. Evolve has won a second Canadian Bitcoin ETF as Ontario regulator approved their application. Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, remains a mystery genius from Japan. Cryptocurrency exchange Kraken said on Monday that due to the significant move in Bitcoin and Ethereum prices, I has cut minimum withdrawal amounts and fees.  I don’t know if anyone is listening, but the Relative Strength Index on Bitcoin is approaching the overbought area. 

Cryptocurrency Ethereum rose to a record $1,576.70 on last Wednesday, at the 2/8 launch of CME’s Ethereum futures contracts approaches.  Ethereum is emerging as a diversifier to Bitcoin, and the futures market can be used to hedge existing Ethereum exposures. Coinbase opens Waitlist for Ethereum 2.0 staking. According to one article I read, $2000 ETH price is closer than it seems, based on Ethereum fundamentals. Ripple continues to suffer under heightened overhead pressure, but a breakout is expected. On the other hand, some other altcoins, like Polkadot, Cosmos, IOTA, and Kusama have shown double-digit gains. The overall cryptocurrency market’s value has now topped $1.5 trillion. Osprey Funds has brought to the OTC market a trust that gives retail investors exposure to Bitcoin. Fidelity Digital Assets is acting as custodian of the assets of the trust. 

Brexit:

Irish FM is calling for “flexibility” amid Brussels’ concerns about Dublin’s stance on Brexit. Post-Brexit companies are facing new UK tariff regime and trade compliance challenges. One of the main goals of Brexit was to give the UK a clean slate to renegotiate its trade relationships around the world unencumbered by its current obligations to the EU. That has given rise to the UK Global Tariff (UKGT), which applies to goods imported into the UK after 1/1/21. In theory, UKGT reduces and simplifies tariffs on thousands of goods entering the UK and removes tariffs completely on certain raw goods and products. However, many products that used to be traded duty-free between the UK and EU may now be subject to higher tariffs. The EU is the UK’s largest trading partner, accounting for 43% of all UK exports and 51% of all UK imports in 2019. So, the uncertainty of what would be tariffed higher or lower, led to concerns of several major multinational companies, who moved their European headquarters out of the UK (like Panasonic, SONY, Honda, Dyson, Barclay’s, HSBC, etc.). Starting on 1/1/21, goods moving between the UK and any EU country had to file import and export declarations, as well as calculate the origin of their goods. This includes Regional Value Content (RVC) and product-specific percentage calculations. International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, is refusing to answer questions about the cross-Channel trading crisis sparked by Brexit. I’ve been writing about the problems in Scotland, Ireland, and England, but there is also a crisis in the EU, as one-third of UK shoppers have stopped buying EU exports since Brexit began. Despite the pandemic and partly as a result of Brexit, NYC has been deemed the most important financial hub globally by 60% of senior financial professionals in Asia, Europe, and the US, compared with 56% last year, according to a survey by Duff & Phelps. Slightly more than 50% of the respondents said that Brexit diminishes London’s status as a hub.

Global Financial News:

Back on the short-squashing rally in various stocks, the Dept of Justice fraud section and federal prosecutors in San Francisco are now investigating whether market manipulation or other crimes took place in the recent Reddit-driven day trading rally for several stocks, that caused those stocks to surge, displacing many shorts. The CFTC and SEC are also looking into the uncommon trading frenzy. I heard a rumor that Michael Jordan may have had some positions in some of these stocks, perhaps GameStop. The CBO says that US debt will reach 107% of US GDP by 2031, as the federal government will run an annual budget deficit averaging $1.2 trillion during the coming decade. The SEC plans to make it harder for firms to secure a waiver to continue business after they settle an enforcement case. Critics of the waiver have been saying that it is akin to a fee pass for repeat offenders. Bank deposits increased by $100 billion since the end of December, according to the Federal Reserve data, and bank executives fear that consumers will not borrow the money if they have ample amount of cash on hand. Some bank executives say they do not expect lending to grow again until the second half of this year, according to American Banker. Excess deposits and few borrowers, but isn’t that somewhat disingenuous? I mean, during the Financial Crisis and now during the pandemic, didn’t banks raise the bar for consumers to get loans, requiring higher credit scores, etc. to obtain a loan? I know the bar was awfully ‘low’ in 2007, when documents didn’t even have to be completed and compensation wasn’t even verified, and ‘strawman’ loans were given. But, it seems like there is something odd about this. Maybe, it’s not even disingenuity. Maybe it’s simple risk/reward behavior, in which the banks can make more money with their cash in bank deposits or reserves, earning some interest, then getting tangled up in loans or tangled up in trading that have new punitive regulations that eat away a profit margin? Wasn’t the Federal Reserve tackling the very problem of too many Reserves because of the US Treasury and banks at the end of 2019? Well, what do I know anyway. International brokers (including CIBC, Bank of America, UBS, and TD Bank) have been sued over naked short selling allegations from 2016 by a Bermuda-based hedge fund. Over the past 3 weeks, the Securities Traders Association has received significant input from a broad range of market participants, with respect to a letter that they submitted to the House Financial Services Committee, just ahead of a virtual hearing on the market volatility we experienced in late January and early February. The title of the hearing is “Game Stopped? Who Wins and Loses When Short Sellers, Social Media, and Retail Investors Collide,” and the CEOs of Robinhood, Citadel, Melvin Capital Mgmt, and Reddit will be among the witnesses. The hearing will likely focus on the democratization of the markets, investor confidence (which is suddenly in jeopardy), investor protection and regulations, determining what issues are systemic and which ones are entity-specific, and whether broker/dealers share an additional burden to warn customers transactionally when a trade could involve ‘extreme risk.’ A Manhattan federal judge said Citigroup cannot reclaim some $500 million from a group of 10 asset managers who received the funds in error and refused to return them. Bank error in your failure? The bank mistakenly wired $893 million to creditors of Revlon while acting as the firm’s loan agent, per the NY Times. The judge said that “the non-returning lenders believed, and were justified in believing, that the payments were intentional.” Banks are ready to work with customers to shift Loans away from LIBOR to other replacement rates. Wells Fargo’s goal of cutting at least $8 billion in annual expenses is posing a dilemma for CEO Charles Scharf, who must simultaneously spend to restore the bank’s bank-end systems to satisfy regulators in the wake of its fake accounts scandal, according to WSJ. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. There has been an asset reallocation out of Treasuries and into stocks, on the heels of US politics and violence in DC.

On 12/15/1886, the NYSE saw its first-ever million share trading day.  On 10/28/1997, the NYSE saw its first-ever billion share trading day. In 1972, Warren Buggest invested $25 million in See’s Candy, which is worth $135 million today.  In 2005, Peter Theil invested $500,000 in Facebook and sold it recently for $400 million. We closed in record territory again yesterday. Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I haven’t decided yet rather to trim this list to just important dates):

02/16/21. 31,522.75

02/03/21  30,723.60

01/13/21   31,060.47

12/31/20   30,606.48

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

01/13/21 at 3,809.84

02/03/21 at 3,830.17

02/16/21 at 3,923.59

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, then backed off, then shot higher again to a new record yesterday.

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,595.06. Nasdaq closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

01/13/21 at 13,128.95 

02/03/21 at 13,610.54

02/16/21 at 14,047.50  new record high

The US Treasury curve has flattened since the last Repo Commentary. BNY Mellon has decided to tackle settlement failures with Google Cloud, which it thinks can help clients forecast 40% of daily settlement failures in the US Treasury market. 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

01/04/21 at 0.11%

01/13/21 at 0.14%

02/03/21 at 0.11%

02/16/21 at 0.11%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

12/06/19 at 1.64%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

05/10/20 at 0.21%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

01/04/21 at 0.16% record low!

01/13/21 at 0.22%

02/03/21 at 0.17%

02/16/21 at 0.17%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

12/15/20 at 0.37%

01/04/21 at 0.36%

01/13/21 at 0.48%

02/03/21 at 0.46%

02/16/21 at 0.42% 

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 0.64%

01/04/21 at 0.64%

01/13/21 at 0.80%

02/03/21 at 0.81%

02/16/21 at 0.76%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 0.92%

01/04/21 at 0.93%

01/13/21 at 1.10%

02/03/21 at 1.15%

02/16/21 at 1.09%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 1.65%

01/04/21 at 1.66%

01/13/21 at 1.82%

02/03/21 at 1.92%

02/16/21 at 1.84%

Housing News:

The Work-From-Home (WFH) phenomena continues, which is having a negative impact on the supply of homes for sale and a negative impact on commercial real estate in metropolitan areas. A slow recovery could hit investors of higher-yield MBS as well. Investors have been favoring recently MBS yielding 3-3.5% over MBS yielding 2-2.5% amid fears that the Federal Reserve may begin winding down its latest QE program of purchasing lower-yielding MBS. However, those investors could wind up on the wrong side of the trade, if the concerns about the economic recovery grow. Major banks spent $7 billion on government-backed MBS during the first week of February, increasing holdings to a record 15.8% of assets, according to the Federal Reserve. The White House is extending the moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages until June 30th. The administration also extended the deadline for homeowners to enroll in a forbearance program. The National Association of Home Builders released its latest data, which shows that builder confidence remains high, ticking up one point to 84 in February, due to increased demand offsetting supply chain challenges and surging lumber prices. Lumber prices hit a record high in mid-February, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home and causing some builders to abruptly halt projects at a time when inventories are already at all-time lows.

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repoInterestingly, today I saw an article in Inside Higher Ed that outlined the idea of offering people the option of paying for a 50-year subscription for education. With all the career transitions and re-skilling going on these days, a plan that covers the educational costs of those job pivots doesn’t sound that crazy, does it? So, with the Finance Academy idea of a subscribed education model, along with the PAC for continuing networking, education, and question-answering, with this article as a backdrop, it sounds like we are really on to something!

I’m sure that most of you saw the article I was quoted in a number of times from Global Investor Group/ISF last Monday.  What I went on to say, that didn’t show up, was what I thought Securities Financing individuals might want to keep watch on in 2021. Here’s a list, and I’ll expand on this in further Repo Commentaries.

Clearly, the pandemic forced the migration of workers in our industry from the office (and the money centers) to remote locations (some of them home offices). Along with the migration of schooling and other businesses to working remotely or virtually, this migration of the Repo market is probably not a temporary thing, and certain benefits were unintentionally realized by the companies. There were tax, commercial real estate, technology, meeting efficiencies, and more benefits/issues that were realized during this almost forced Business Continuity Plan.  All of that has further implications for supervision, management, office leasing, employee compensation, home computer compliance, accounting, retention of documents, etc.  

I would proffer that the first issues that the Repo Market in 2021 must address are:  are these further implications identified and being dealt with for remote trading and sales, and is our technology up to the tasks of the benefits & issues highlighted by the remote migration? 

We would have liked to have by now been able to say that technology can meet all of the trading and collateral optimization needs of remote work. But the growth of the widely assumed move to ETPs, ATPs, and CCPs, has been lackluster, driven mostly by Sponsored Repo and industry consolidation. Focusing just on the CCP side, it seems that their very existence, to reduce systemic risk, has actually led to less transparency, more concentration risk, and a self-limiting capital cap on volumes. Is there still a market trust issue in banks or is this because these were vendor-based initiatives and not community-based initiatives.  

As we look at the technology needs for the Repo Market in this environment, do we have enough answers for remote users for elements of the Repo trade cycle? The electronic platforms would be for the quotes, inquiries, and trading. But, where are we on the settlement of trades. I read that the ECB and France think this is one of several areas in the trade cycle, during the massive transfer of assets to Europe from the UK, to take the opportunity to grow a more robust financial structure in Europe, including setting up its owner operations and clearing houses. Other parts of the Repo Trade cycle that we need to make sure there is appropriate technology solutions are: counterparty KYC, documentation, AML, counterparty credit risk determination and monitoring, pricing of securities, trade processing, trade confirmation, and the monitoring and completion of trades (including coupon payments, dividends, proxies, substitutions, margin maintenance calls, maturing securities, early unwinds, etc.). Of course, the Repo participants have to make sure that collateral and balance sheet is being optimized.  

Then, there are the Regulations. Not only do we need to look to see if the technology is sufficient to overlay the mountain of current regulations. In 2021, the Repo market may also have to deal with the specter of FSB & FSOC Shadow Banking reforms, EC rumored hedge fund rules, new Best Interest rules, ESG rules, short-selling bans in some countries, potentially that Volcker rule, the Fed finally addressing the Orderly Liquidation Authority for Firesale Risk, ESMA’s SFTR, CSDR, MiFID II, EMIR, Rule 165, Basel III & IV now, Financial Transaction Tax (in France and New Jersey), just to name a few.  

I think another topic for 2021 that the Repo market will have to deal with is the continuing imbalances of supply and liquidity, particularly in the US markets, somewhat due to the Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy, but also the imbalance of collateral suppliers (broker/dealers) due to regulations and competing balance sheet products, and the Fed’s own programs, where it repos collateral to the primary dealers’ cash providers and reverse repos collateral from the primary dealers. In effect, the Fed is running a mismatched repo book, while tinkering with the underlying rates of Repo, RRP, Fed Funds, and Interest On Excess Reserves. I’ve argued that some of those imbalances could be alleviated by having both the buyside collateral providers execute repo with the buyside cash providers, bypassing the handcuffed broker/dealers and the need for the Fed to intervene, but I haven’t seen the expected or potential growth in the recent figures that OFR is reporting and that I am hearing from clients. Perhaps, it’s because there hasn’t been a community-based technological solution that makes it work better with this remote trading. I think this overall supply/liquidity/counterparty diversification issue will be one of the most important for the Repo market in 2021.  

The last issue that comes to mind is the need for distanced continued learning, the need for distanced networking (particularly in like communities), distanced tutorials and conference panels, and distanced basic training. With the pandemic forcing us from our 3 dozen annual conferences, because we can’t have gatherings, and the non-specific panel discussions, and the need for more direct Repo issue Help Desks, if you will, there is a technology need here for the New Networking. I recently became a part of two of the solutions for this growing need in 2021. I have taught the Fundamentals of Repo course for the Virtual Academy designed by Pierpoint Financial, which is an intense 11-week course from my 38-years of experience in the Repo industry, and which accompanies other course in Collateral Management, Securities Lending, and others to come, taught by other experts. The second solution I am involved in is the very adaptable Pierpoint Alpha Community, which will provide the market with experts on call who can answer member questions on any number of topics, provide tutorials, develop Q&A discussions, and will allow for networking of like institutions to discuss the most important topics of the day. 

As Bloomberg wrote, “Repo is ending a very eventful year in an unusually subdued way.” The Federal Reserve’s quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ballooning of bank reserves certainly calmed the Repo market. For once (I say as a Repo dinosaur), the Federal Reserve flooded the market with liquidity AND the broker/dealers did not try to trim their balance sheets down as aggressively as they have in the past. Scott Skyrm spoke about the lack of leverage being used by hedge funds and other asset managers, combined with the Supplementary Leverage Ratio for banks being suspended, as contributors to a mild year-end. But, looking ahead, that SLR suspension will end on 3/31/21, which is our next quarter-end, as well as Japanese year-end. AFME has highlighted the risk of mandatory buy-ins for fails to Europe’s economic recovery from the pandemic and is calling for the measure to be removed from the upcoming CSDR. Broadridge has become an approved SFT submitter for the National Securities Clearing Corporation Equities Clearing Service. China has amended its QFII scheme to allow foreign investors to lend and borrow securities directly in the mainland market.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences

The Securities Financing industry had all of these annual conferences, several for many years, which used to be attended by thousands of firms, colleagues, and peers. After the financial crisis, the numbers of participants decreased, as firms’ budgets were reduced. Some of the conferences were excellent networking opportunities and some had extremely valuable panels and current information and issues being discussed. Some of the more recent ones focused information and questions on specific sectors to be more effective. There was also a major emphasis recently by many of the conferences on diversity and women’s participation in the industry. Unfortunately, COVID-19 led to the banishing of gatherings worldwide, and these conferences were cancelled or held for free virtually.  That isn’t a viable business plan for conference organizers though, as it can be costly to put these events on. So, our market is looking for other solutions to networking, discussing the pressing issues, and finding solutions for peers. Pierpoint Alpha Community is one such new solution.

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20.  They just did their 2021 version virtually for the first time.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. 
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. 
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. 
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. 
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 
  • RMA cancelled its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management.
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  
  • Risk.net annual conference.. 
  • SIFMA annual meeting.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance was virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is held a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks. 

The next FOMC meetings are: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are in.  

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

MSU economics professor Lisa Cook is reportedly being supported as a possible nominee to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors to replace Judy Shelton, whose controversial nomination was withdrawn by President Biden. Cook previously worked during the Obama administration as a senior economist with the Council of Economic Advisers.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are recent significant earthquakes over just one day! This is the most I’ve seen for one day of this magnitude!  In the last two Repo Commentaries, global earthquake activity was extremely busy, particularly in South America, the Middle East, and Russia. I have just cancelled my vacation to the Loyalty Islands, just East of Australia.

02/10 5.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.3 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.4 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.6 S of Sovet Tajikistan

02/10 4.4 NW of Iquique, Chile

02/10 4.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.3 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.6 S of Fiji Islands

02/10 4.8 S of Fiji Islands

02/10 5.6 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.3 SE of Tinogasta, Argentina

02/10 5.0 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.6 SW of Abepura, Indonesia

02/10 4.9 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 4.5 Izu Islands, Japan

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.0 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.6 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.2 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 7.7 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.1 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.2 SSW of Bengkulu, Indonesia

02/10 5.7 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 6.0 SE of Loyalty Islands

02/10 5.1 SSW of Bengkulu, Indonesia

02/10 5.1 SSW of Bengkulu, Indonesia

02/10 5.1 SE of Pondaguitan, Philippines

02/10 5.0 SSW of Jucuaran, El Salvador

02/10 4.4 SW of Puerto El Triunfo, El Salavador

02/10 5.7 central East Pacific Rise

Weather:

There is a Winter Storm Warning in effect for greater Portland/Vancouver metro areas, where snow and icy conditions are expected. Light snow is expected in the DC area. Early next week, a southern snowstorm is possible for the area from Texas to Tennessee, including Dallas. Pennsylvania will see another winter storm this weekend. After just having snow, New Jersey will get a mixture of snow, sleet, and ice this weekend. An arctic blast, well below freezing, is expected for the Houston area. They will likely have record low temperatures. Arctic air has also gripped the Midwest. At least 28 states now have winter weather alerts for 3 different winter storms. The Weather Channel predicts that warmer-than-average temperatures will dominate by April and May for most of the country. Winter Storm Orlena hammered the Sierra, Midwest, and Northeast with heavy snow. After a cold spell last week in Florida, with temperatures in the 40s on the back of that Winter Storm Orlena in the Northeast, this week has seen record high temperatures as high as 87 degrees. Miami’s heat index soared to the mid-90s. This has been causing unusual dense fog in much of southern Florida, and a National Weather Service “dense fog advisory.” The weather roller-coaster of South Florida has featured cold, heat, and a fire watch too in the past week. Oklahoma City plunged below zero for the first time in over 4 years and just the 3rd time in 100 years. In fact, nowhere else in the Northern Hemisphere, including Siberia, will experience temperatures so far below average on Valentine’s Day than in the central US. 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

Instead, 2020 was a record year, not only with the pandemic, but also in meteorology. There were 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and 2020 was also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names in the alphabetical system. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was 250% more active than average. 

Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates there have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud we had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  However, MLB intends to HAVE Spring Training, but they have not decided yet (according to my friends at the Marlins, Cardinals, Astros, and Nationals) whether they will have fans in the seats and whether they will do live National Anthems. However, they did take my videos for the National Anthem and “God Bless America”, to possibly use them on the scoreboard. Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated. A late Friday update for these 4 teams and others in Treasure Coast and Palm Beach County, each team will only play the teams in this area.  So, the Astros, Cardinals, Marlins, Mets, and Nationals will play each other, and not travel to other ballparks, just these 3 in West Palm Beach, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.  They will play 24 games in 30 days.  The other 8 teams in the Grapefruit League in Florida on the West Coast will be split into two groups (Tigers/Yankees/Phillies/Blue Jays and Braves/Red Sox/Twins/Rays) will play each other 28 games over the 30-day span. MLB eliminated the use of college baseball teams in the revised schedules, because they haven’t been subject to MLB testing protocols. Also eliminated were split-squad games, which allow for the evaluation of more players. I see another ‘asterisk’ season on the way. The exhibition season will begin for all teams on 2/28. 

MLB owners finally, last Friday, sent a proposal to the MLB Players Association, outlining a 154-game schedule for 2021, with the season to be delayed by one month. Most teams will open their Spring Training sometime next week. The Red Sox finally pulled the trigger on a rumored trade deal, sending popular outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals, in a 3-team swap between the Red Sox, Royals, and Mets. Wednesday night, the teams announced the trade which will include outfielder Khalil Lee and the Royals’ No.8 prospect to the Mets, outfielder Benintendi going to the Royals from the Red Sox, outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later going from the Royals to Red Sox, and pitcher Josh Winckowski and a player to be named later going from the Mets to the Red Sox. The Red Sox will have almost a roster of ‘players to be named later.’ The Red Sox are reportedly close to signing Hirokazu Sawamura of Japan for 2 years/$2.4 million. The Red Sox have previously found invaluable relief pitching from Japanese players, such as Hideki Okajima, Koji Uehara, and Junichi Tazawa. Sawamura would join a late-inning relief crew that includes Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and Darwinzon Hernandez. The Red Sox are mourning their first draft pick ever in 1965, Billy Conigliaro, who was also brother of beloved Red Sox star, Tony Conigliaro. Billy died Wednesday at age 73. He was also one of my coaches for a few years at Red Sox Fantasy Camp and a very nice guy. The Rockies finalized their trade sending franchise icon Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals in what amounts to a salary dump. Colorado received 5 players, but none cornerstone types, but did unload about $150 million in future salary obligation. Nolan wanted to move on though. He had signed an 8-year extension with the Rockies in 2019 for $260 million, but was frustrated with the team’s lack of effort in building a contender around him. There are other stars who may request trades from their teams, including Yankees’ 3B Miguel Andujar, who despite being the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year, currently has no position and no defined role; the Indians’ 3B Jose Ramirez, an MVP-caliber performer at 28, who just lost his best friend Lindor and Carrasco, who were both traded, on a team that has lost 8 straight postseason games and 11 of its last 13 postseason games; Rockies’ Trevor Story, who is a 28-year-old star on a team with the 7th-worst winning percentage in baseball from 2019-2020; and here is a surprise, Angels’ Mike Trout, one of the game’s greats (arguably the best player currently in baseball) who is on a team that has only played in 3 postseason games (all losses in 2014) during his 7 years on the team and hasn’t had a winning record since 2015, while he is now turning 30 with 10 years and $354.5 million still on his contract. MLB players are going to wear electronic tracing wristbands and will face discipline based on new COVID-19 health and safety protocols. MLB has decided to once again ‘deaden’ the baseballs, to reduce the number of homeruns, believing that this will put more people in the seats in the summer to see warning track pop-outs. I think that’s absurd!  MLB is renewing the rule about 7-inning doubleheaders (instead of 9-inning games) and runners on 2nd base in extra innings. However, the deal did not include extending the DH to the National League or expanded playoffs. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season rolls on. The Tour has been updating players on allowing family and guests at events, during the pandemic. Seemingly with the tournament in hand, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, the 54-hole co-leaders, couldn’t hold off a huge charge by Brooks Koepka at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, winning for the first time since the WGC-FedEx Invitational July 2019. His first Tour victory was at the same course, TPC Scottsdale, and tournament back in 2015.  Despite being a 4-time Majors winner, Koepka has been hobbled the last 2 years with knee injuries. Next up is the legendary AT&T tourney at Pebble Beach, where Nick Taylor was the defending champion. It was very weird Pro-Am without the crowd, amateur, and celebrity players. In the end, Daniel Berger prevailed by two strokes, with a late eagle. Jordan Spieth was 3 back, and in the hunt for the first time in a while. After winning the tournament and the Waterford crystal trophy, Berger withdrew from the Genesis Invitational, the next stop on Tour. Phil Mickelson is in exploratory talks for a broadcasting position. Bryson DeChambeau is sparking rumors that he will try to drive the famous Bay Hill par-5 sixth hole, with his 48-inch driver, when the Tour plays the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, FL. The hole is listed at 590-yards, but DeChambeau thinks he can cut the corner, which would reduce the in-the-air yardage to 340 yards, exactly how far he drove the ball last year on the same hole. Reminds me of the news in 2004, when an English amateur hit a ball with a 3-iron on a 496-yard par-5 hole over a corner of trees, on to the green, and in the hole for a hole-in-one. Golf didn’t have a name for it and had to invent one, for the 4-under par score. They could have gone with “Double Albatross” or “Triple Eagle”, but they sounded to corny, so the USGA came up with another avian name, the “Condor.” USC standout, Gabriela Ruffels, the 2019 US Women’s Amateur Champion has decided to forgo her senior year at USC and turn professional. LPGA great, Annika Sorenstam has committed to play in this month’s Gainbridge LPGA, which will be at her home course of Lake Nona, in Orlando, FL. The Hall-of-Famer has not competed in an official tournament since 2008. She played in an unofficial tournament in Orlando in January, in the celebrity division. The LPGA on Monday released a list of rule changes for this season, including a couple that benefit non-members who win Majors. Rangefinders on Tour is a hot topic of debate for pro caddies. Wayne Gretzky got his first hole-in-one on New Year’s Eve.  

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL.

Super Bowl LV was played in Tampa Bay on Sunday, with the Bucs acting as home team, the first time that a Super Bowl was played in the city where one of the teams was from. Despite the odds against it and his age against him, QB Tom Brady and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl over the Chiefs, 31-9. The Chiefs were outplayed on both sides of the ball. Former Patriots’ TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Antonio Brown both played a huge part, scoring 3 of the Bucs’ TDs. Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP, as he won his 7th Super Bowl, more than any franchise, let alone any player, in 10 trips to the Super Bowl. To put it in even greater perspective, there have been 50 Super Bowls, Tom Brady has played in 10 of them and won 7 of them. Patriots fans no doubt are still steaming about Bill Belichick letting him go, as he continues to defy the odds and keeps winning. More on this story, as there was a development on Friday. There is a rumor that QB Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers will rejoin the Patriots as QB this season. The trading of Garoppolo to the 49ers by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, for virtually nothing, incensed Belichick, who had wanted Garoppolo to be the heir apparent to Brady and trained by Brady, which consequently led to the feud between Brady and Belichick, particularly after Kraft sided with Brady and traded Garoppolo away. Now, could it be that Brady wins another Super Bowl and Garoppolo returns to the Brady-less Patriots?  The family of Chiefs QB Pat Mahomes came out swinging after the game. His fiancée Brittany Matthews attacked ESPN for posting a close-up photo of him dejected in the 4th quarter. She took exception to the officiating too, during her live-tweeting during the game. Mahomes’s mother, Randi Martin, tweeted at Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, for having the ref on her team. She was not happy with Sports Centre making fun of her son. Bucs’ coach Bruce Arians reportedly prioritized rest and days off for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, before the big game. At the end of the game on Sunday, I ordered two super bowl champion Bucs hats and actually received them Thursday night. On Tuesday, the Chiefs announced that the team has placed OL coach Britt Reid (son of head coach Andy Reid) on administrative leave, amid an investigation into a Missouri car crash which left a 5-year-old girl in critical condition with brain injuries. According to a police report, Reid said that he had had 2-3 drinks in addition to prescription Adderall before getting behind the wheel of his truck and crashing into two cars on the side of a highway near the Chiefs facility. The GoFundMe for the child now exceeds $340,000. 

Longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer died on Tuesday, after it was announced that he would be moved to a hospice facility in North Carolina. Schottenheimer, 77, had Alzheimer’s Disease. The Texans announced to the rest of the NFL that they are no longer interested in trading their QB Deshaun Watson, although he still wants to be traded. The Texans did contact the Eagles about QB Carson Wentz. The Texans, on Friday, released their star, JJ Watt, which he had requested. Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers was named the NFL’s MVP. It was his 3rdMVP trophy.  It appears that during his acceptance speech, he dropped the bombshell that he is now engaged to actress Shailene Woodley.  QB Peyton Manning headlines the Hall of Fame class of 2021. QB Carson Wentz reportedly has his sights set on one team in Eagles trade talks. It appears that the Colts and Bears are the front-runners, but Wentz prefers the Colts. The Patriots and 49ers could be dark horses too. Reports are that QB Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears have “zero interest” in a reunion. QB Russell Wilson has been vague about his future in Seattle.

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season kicked off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. The Australian Open would have been played already by now, in a normal year, but it was delayed for another 3 weeks. It has begun now, and Friday was Day 6. Tennis crowds have been banned though, as Melbourne enters the COVID-19 lockdown again, at least for 5 days. Players are being quarantined at a hotel. Some analysts question if it is leading to poorer performance. Serena Williams notched her 90th Australian Open victory, after a scary first set with Potapova. 10th seed Williams now faces 7th seed Aryna Sabalenka. World No.1 Ash Barty has withdrawn from her doubles bid, due to a leg injury. Rafael Nadal is also worried about his Australian campaign, as a lower back injury keeps nagging him. 

NCAA Basketball

The 2020-2021 season began in November. The 2021 NCAA tournament will hopefully be in Indianapolis.  We are deep into it now, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  Seven Big 10 teams have pierced the Top 25 (and none of them are typical top team Michigan State), with 3 of them in the top 6. Other perennial favorites have also had brutal seasons, including Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, and Kansas. These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 02/07/21:

  1.  Gonzaga (18-0) 
  2.  Baylor (17-0)
  3.  Michigan (13-1)
  4.  Ohio State (15-4)
  5.  Villanova (12-2)
  6.  Illinois (13-5)
  7.  Texas Tech (14-5)
  8.  Houston (16-2)
  9.  Virginia (13-3)
  10.  Missouri (13-3)
  11.  Alabama (15-5)
  12.  Oklahoma (12-5)
  13.  Texas (11-5)
  14.  West Virginia (14-4)
  15.  Iowa (13-6)
  16.  Tennessee (13-4) 
  17.  Florida State (10-3)
  18.  Virginia Tech (14-4)
  19.  Creighton (14-5)
  20.  USC (15-3)
  21.  Wisconsin (14-6)
  22.  Loyola Chicago (17-3)
  23.  Oklahoma State (12-5)
  24.  Purdue (13-7)
  25.  Rutgers (11-6)

NHL:

Last season (2019-2020) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on the asterisk season on 10/2/19. The puck dropped (again) to conclude this past season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) was delayed and started 1/13/21.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There have already been many cancelled or postponed games, due to COVID-19 racing through some of the teams. There was also divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic.  However, this realignment has been discussed for a few years now. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. This is this season’s odd configuration:

NORTH (all Canadian) (their current standings 15-19 games into the regular season)

Toronto Maple Leafs

Montreal Canadiens

Winnipeg Jets

Edmonton Oilers

Calgary Flames

Vancouver Canucks

Ottawa Senators

WEST(and their current standings 12-16 games into the regular season)

Las Vegas Golden Knights

St. Louis Blues

Colorado Avalanche

Phoenix Coyotes

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

LA Kings

San Jose Sharks

Minnesota Wild

CENTRAL (and their current standings 12-17 games into the regular season)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Florida Panthers

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Nashville Predators

Detroit Redwings

EAST (and their current standings 10-15 games into the regular season)

Boston Bruins

New York Islanders

Philadelphia Flyers

Washington Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins

New Jersey Devils

New York Rangers

Buffalo Sabres

The Islanders placed veteran Leo Komarov on waivers. Nathan MacKinnon and his wrist shot are back on the Avalanche. The Vegas Golden Knights have debuted gold chrome helmets. The NHL is busy postponing games for the Flyers, Devils, Sabres, and Wild, due to COVID-19 protocols. After a shocking resignation by Pittsburgh Penguins GM, Jim Rutherford, he could be back in the NHL very soon. The Penguins named Brian Burke as President and Ron Hextall was named the GM. Mikko Koivu, 37, retired from the NHL on Tuesday, after 16 seasons, playing 1,094 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. 

The Lamoureux sisters, Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, 31-year-old veterans of the US Women’s national hockey team, announced their retirement Tuesday. The twins helped Team USA to its first Olympic women’s hockey gold medal in 20 years, by defeating rival Canada in the final. Monique scored the game-tying goal in the 3rd period and Jocelyn sealed the victory with a shootout goal. They also won a pair of Olympic silver medals in 2010 and 2014, and seven medals from World Championships (six gold and one silver).

The World’s Longest Hockey Game, the 7th annual event, raised $1.84 million for cancer research, thanks to 40 hockey players. The event took 252 hours, starting on 2/4 and ending early Monday morning in Sherwood Park in Alberta.  Team Hope beat Team Cure with a score of 2,649-2,528. I would hate to be either goalie. 

NBA:

Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines.  Mark Cuban and his Dallas Mavericks have decided that they will no longer play the National Anthem before home games. Celtics legend, Bill Russell, turned 87 Monday. 

Racing:

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2020, Chase Elliott won. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the 3rd father-son duo to win the title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale).  In 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2021 regular season began with the Daytona 500 on 2/14/21. The race was marred by expected thunderstorms. Michael McDowell surprised even himself by winning.  A bizarre Martin Truex Jr. retirement rumor has emerged. 

Formula One began 2020 with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown. Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. 

IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

Travel News:

On Thursday morning, the snowy conditions in Fort Worth led to a more than 100-car-pileup, with at least 6 fatalities and 65 injured. Some of the injured were frontline healthcare workers just getting off their shifts. I’ve watched the video of the Fed Ex semi-trailer slamming into all the other cars, skidding on the ice. In Wisconsin, a man in a pickup truck crashed through the side of a snowy overpass and landed 70 feet below on to another highway, and miraculously survived, with the help of good Samaritans. The storm also led to more than 100,000 customers in Texas, Kentucky, and West Virginia without power on Friday. 

Health News:  

As of this morning (02/17), globally, more than 2,423,307 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 109,659,317 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 27.7 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 488,352 (almost double what Dr. Fauci predicted). The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (240,940), Mexico (175,986), India (155,913), and UK (119,159). 

NYC has finally, after 2 months, reopened indoor dining at restaurants at 25% capacity, starting on Friday. Of course, that’s only going to be for the restaurants that survived the closure and lack of revenues. Many did not. More than 140,000 New Yorkers in the city’s restaurant industry lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, according to the NYC Hospitality Alliance. In the entire nation, more than 8 million bar and restaurant employees were laid off in the Spring last year, during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns, according to the National Restaurant Association. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only about 4 million of those jobs were added back from May to October, and the industry has sustained job losses every month since November. A national survey in December conducted by HealthCareInsider on more than 1400 adults, found that only 26% say they are already comfortable drinking and dining indoors.  Governors and mayors elsewhere in the US have also recently reopened or loosened restrictions on indoor dining, including in Philadelphia, Chicago, Portland,OR, Maryland’s Montgomery County, and New Jersey. NY State has reported at least 59 cases of the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 that originated in the UK, according to the CDC. The CDC warns that this UK variant could become the country’s predominant strain by March. As of Wednesday, NYC had vaccinated more than 1 million people for COVID-19. The rate of vaccinations is nearly 1.6 million shots per day. The two COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use each require a two shot regimen, spaced out by 3 or 4 weeks. Vaccination is not complete until both doses are received. A Vanderbilt doctor says that it is common for people to feel sick after the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. So far, 11.9% of US citizens have received at least one dose of vaccine and 4.5% have received both doses of the vaccine. That’s a total of over 55 million people that have received at least one vaccine in the US. On 2/11, President Biden signed a deal to purchase 600 million vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna, to be delivered by Summer 2021. The Federal government also announced that it is using the Defense Production Act to help smooth other bottlenecks. 

A Public Service Announcement is apparently in order, since this was actually not included on the warnings of the packaging: Do NOT Use Gorilla Glue On Your Hair. A Florida (naturally) woman’s mishap has gone viral, in which she glued her hair and then required a 4-hour procedure in a hospital to remove the glue from her hair. 

Animal News:

At the Detroit Zoo, the male polar bear killed the female polar bear during breeding. Nope, not going to go there. A NYC restaurant is serving a 2-course meal for dogs and their owners. Sadly, NYC and surrounding metro area are still under Phase 1 of the COVID-19 plan, and will have restaurants only open at 25% capacity, now starting today (Friday). 

Entertainment News:

David Chappelle’s show is back on Netflix. I’m still getting caught up on Designated Survivor on Netflix, which remarkably 3 or 4 years ago predicted many of the crises we have been facing recently in its storyline. Attorneys here have negotiated a plea deal for Palm Beach resident, Rod Stewart, and his Palm Beach scuffle in a bar. Marilyn Manson has been dropped by a record label, after ex-fiance Evan Rachel Wood alleged abuse and released photos of her bruising and scars. Longtime ESPN reporter, Pedro Gomez, has died at 58. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eric Clapton (probably one of the top 5 guitarists of all-time) owns no less than 4 of the world’s most expensive guitars. He also owns one of the world’s superyachts, a $10 million beauty purchased in 2005. But, he’s worth an estimated $250 million and can afford the upkeep on the bauble. New Zealand billionaire businessman Graeme Hart bought a $275 million, 107-meter yacht, Andromeda, in 2015. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling purchased Johnny Depp’s Amphitrite yacht in 2015 for $27 million. She is chartering the vessel out for roughly $130,000 per week. She is making a lot of money, even though she has paused her book/movie franchise, simply from the Comcast-owned “Wizarding World” section at Universal Studios every day. She has written a new book under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Oprah has the $300 million superyacht Trending, which is 50 meters long. Simon Cowell, who is now worth about $500 million, purchased yacht Slipstream of 60 meters, which costs some $329,000 per week to maintain the $73 million boat. You have to see this one:

Elton John has a $26 million yacht named Wabi Sabi. Steven Speilberg has a $150 million yacht named Seven Seas, which he now charters out for $1 million/month, as he is building a new, bigger yacht. Mariah Carey has a $17.6 million/192 foot yacht named the Songbird Supreme. Operating costs are hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Bono of U2 has an $11.5 million yacht named Cyan. Okay, that’s enough of that. 

Technology & Space News:

Goldman Sachs is launching Marcus Invest, a low-cost digital wealth-management service (robo-adviser) aimed at retail customers. The robo-adviser invests customers’ funds across managed portfolios of ETFs and allows a minimum investment of $1,000. Payment card startup Marqeta reportedly has filed for an IPO. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase are aiming for a valuation of about $10 billion. Amazon and Walmart have told customers to skip returns of unwanted items. A lawyer representing investors told a London court that traders accused of rigging foreign exchange rates might have used as many as 200 chat rooms across various online platforms to coordinate their efforts. The ongoing lawsuit came to trial recently and accuses traders from 7 major banks in participating in widespread FX market manipulation between 2003 and 2013. 

US News:

The 117th US Congress has begun. The President Trump was acquitted by the US Senate, in his second impeachment trial. House members said that it took the President more than 3 hours on January 6, 2021 for him to issue a strong rebuke to the rioters on Capitol Hill. The rioters managed to break through the outer door of Nancy Pelosi’s office, while yelling that they were going to lynch her, but did not manage to break through the inner door. Mike Pence and his family came within 100 feet of being captured by the rioters, who were also focused on him. Proud Boys, one of the radical groups responsible for the Capitol Hill attack, is reportedly splintering now into new factions. The Capitol policeman who died the day after the riots, who was originally thought to have succumbed to a blow to the head, is now believed to have succumbed to bear spray.

Reports now say that when President Trump came down with COVID-19 that officials considered putting him on a ventilator. COVID-19 has reportedly brought US violence against Asian Americans. San Francisco is suing the State to allow the city to reopen schools amid a record number of suicidal students. One California city has become the first in the nation to give “hero pay” to farmworkers and other essential employees. 

A Las Vegas man was arrested after trying to pull over a cop. 

Bankruptcy:

No news today.

International News:

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and first African Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Former President of Argentina, Carlos Menem, died at the age of 90. Mario Draghi became the PM of Italy, leading a national unity government, after the resignation of Giuseppe Conte. The abrupt halt to Ant Group’s IPO late last year was thought to be caused by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s concerns over risk to financial stability and irritation with Ant Group owner Jack Ma’s outspoken criticism of the government. However, some Chinese officials say an earlier investigation of the IPO revealed a complex ownership structure that could have benefited the political rivals of Xi. 

Florida:

Palm Beach County, longtime in feuds with Donald Trump over his properties, his flag, and his residency, are looking at options to enforce a rule that No One can stay at Mar-a-lago longer than a few months, as the President is considering it as his permanent residence. 

Jokes and Such:

Okay, I decided that since you people are only going to give me dirty jokes that would just get me in trouble, in the context of distanced learning and your kids likely at home on the computer, I would provide you some CLEAN jokes that you can share with them. That’s just how I am J

12. Why did the bullet end up losing his job?

He got fired.

13. What kind of shorts do clouds wear?

Thunderpants

14. I entered ten puns in a contest to see which would win.

No pun in ten did.

15. How do you measure a snake?

In inches—they don’t have feet.

16. Where does a waitress with only one leg work?

IHOP.

17. What does a house wear?

Address!

18. Why are toilets always so good at poker?

They always get a flush

19. Why is Peter Pan always flying?

Because he Neverlands. (I love this joke because it never grows old.)

20. You heard the rumor going around about butter?

Never mind, I shouldn’t spread it.

I promise that they will continue to be corny or cornier, unless you give me some good quasi-clean jokes for adults…

Repo Commentary-02/04/21

It is Day 330 (on 02/04) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. For many, unemployment benefits have ended, for others (particularly my friends in gig industries) there were no benefits. Some of us are still waiting for our second Stimulus check of $600. 

I was thinking back to the early reports about COVID-19 pandemic and the contrasts made of it to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Overlaying the current COVID-19 numbers, we still see the enormity of the Spanish Flu of 1918 (which by the way was never proven to have started in Spain or any other location). Of course, there are nearly 7 billion people in the world and 336 million people in the US now.

Spanish Flu of 1918 

Global cases (estimated): 500 million (33% of population)

Global deaths (estimated): 20-50 million (3-5% of population)

US cases:

US deaths: 675,000

Length of pandemic: 15 months

COVID-19 of 2020 

Global cases: 102,840,181 (1/31/21)

Global deaths: 2,225,302 (1/31/21)

US cases: 26,147,162 (1/31/21)

US deaths: 440,843 (1/31/21)

Length of pandemic: so far 11 months

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (01/19), I wrote about my latest project. It is a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here:  https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

As I released the 1/19 Repo Commentary,  I think at least two previews of my course and the course syllabus were released on LinkedIn. There was also an announcement made about a new members only training/networking/brainstorming/question-answering group, Pierpoint Alpha Community (PAC), created by Pierpoint Financial Consulting, which addresses many needs in our market in a creative, new interactive and immediate yet distanced way.  I will be part of the circle of experts available, my course will be part of the training, and I will be participating in future forums that will be offered. 

So, I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry.  I am consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans.  As I mentioned, an article will be coming out shortly, with Global Investor Group, in which I share my thoughts about what we all need to pay attention to in 2021.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (02/04):

  • Liberace Day
  • National Create a Vaccum Day
  • National Hemp Day
  • National Homemade Soup Day
  • National Quacker Day
  • National Sweater Day in Canada
  • National Stuffed Mushroom Day
  • National Thank a Mailman Day
  • Torture Abolition Day
  • Rosa Parks Day
  • USO Day
  • World Cancer Day
  • Day of the Armed Struggle (Angola)
  • Independence Day (Sri Lanka)

Some Famous People Born on (02/04):

  • 1677-Johann Ludwig Bach, German violinist and composer
  • 1902-Charles Lindbergh, American pilot and explorer
  • 1912-Byron Nelson, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1913-Rosa Parks, American civil rights activist
  • 1936-David Brenner, American comedian, actor, and author
  • 1948-Alice Cooper, American singer-songwriter
  • 1959-Lawrence Taylor, American football player and sportscaster
  • 1962-Clint Black, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer
  • 1973-Oscar De La Hoya, American boxer
  • 1975-Natalie Imbruglia, Australian singer-songwriter and actress
  • 1977-Gavin DeGraw-American singer-songwriter

Daily Weird Facts:

Elvis Presley is considered the best-selling individual artist of all time, with over 500 million records sold. 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”–anonymous 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23/18

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

$50.70/barrel on 01/04

$56.04/barrel on 01/13

$55.95/barrel on 02/04

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has eased up 4 cents this week, at $2.25/gallon. I’m trying to decide if I am going to keep this running list of Oil price closes or not. I’m not sure if it has value and I want to trim down the Repo Commentary.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates). I did decide to trim this running list to just a few dates:

112.20 on 12/24/18 

102.96 on 12/06/19

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

103.90 on 01/13/21

105.47 on 02/04/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.1426 

12/06/19 at $1.1688

03/11 at $1.1937

05/04 at $1.0903

12/16/20 at $1.2196

01/04 at $1.2246

01/13 at $1.2156

02/04 at $1.2625

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24/18 at $1.2655 

12/06/19 at $1.3819

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

12/16/20 at $1.3494

01/04 at $1.3571

01/13 at $1.3635

02/04 at $1.3659

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24/18

1.2530 on 12/06/19

1.2390 on 01/17/20

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.2752 on 12/16/20

1.2787 on 01/04

1.2703 on 01/13

1.2837 on 02/04

For Gold prices, I have decided to put this in list form, but maintain a trimmed list of dates with prices.

10/02/19 $1498.70/ounce 

03/11/20 $1,641/ounce

07/27/20 a record $1,944.71/ounce

11/10/20 $1,880.30

11/30/20 $1,774.00 

12/16/20 $1,858.20

01/04/21 a new record $1,948.00

01/13/21 $1,848.70

02/04/21 $1,796.20

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25/18 

$6,350 on 10/5/18

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,774.97 on 01/07/19 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

$36,433.00 on 01/13/21

$36,607.50 on 02/04/21

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  But, Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. After sneaking up again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through to a new record, where it is now. Since I last reported two weeks ago, when it was 6-7 times higher than the low from March, it has more than doubled again (now nearly 10 times higher than that March low)! JPMorgan now says that Bitcoin could rally to $100,000! 

Cryptocurrency Ethereum rose to a record $1,576.70 on Wednesday, at the 2/8 launch of CME’s Ethereum futures contracts approaches.  Ethereum is emerging as a diversifier to Bitcoin, and the futures market can be used to hedge existing Ethereum exposures. 

Brexit:

Now that the long Brexit process has come to a conclusion, there are real reactions and fallout from the move. The UK technically left the EU on 1/31/20, but the subsequent deal between the two came into force 1/1/21. Most UK drivers will still be able to use their normal driving license while driving in EU countries. However, there are some exceptions, such as those with paper licenses and licenses issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Those people will need and additional International Driving Permit (IDP), which can be purchased at Post Offices. There are two types of IDPs, depending on which countries you will be driving in. As for car insurance, you will need to provide proof that you vehicle is insured while driving in Europe, which is in the form of a green card, which needs to be procured from your insurer before you travel to Europe. There are varying rules on whether you need a GB sticker on your license plate or not, depending on the plate you have and which country you are travelling to. 

Seafood exports, in particular, like shellfish, have been held up by post-Brexit rules, sometimes making fresh product spoil. Supermarkets are calling for action on Northern Ireland food supplies. Deliveries to Northern Ireland from Great Britain have been suspended and may have to eventually be tariffed.  Tariffs are being charged now by the UK on Ghana bananas. UK residents can now apply for a new global health insurance card to replace EHIC, as it runs out, so they can still access emergency medical care. British expats in Spain, particularly Costa del Sol, are running into major problems. Cannabis oil prescriptions are now not being filled in the Netherlands against UK prescriptions. 

I found this Brexit ‘joke’:

How much space will be freed in the EU after Brexit?

Approximately 1 GB.

Global Financial News:

I just saw an announcement on LinkedIn from my former boss/colleague and extraordinary executive, Susan Estes, that the firm she founded and was CEO of, OpenDoor Securities, an electronic market for off-the-run US Treasury trading, has closed its doors on January 13, 2021. Oman is back to the debt markets, launching a $3.25 billion multi-tranche bond. ThoughtWorks has raised $720 million from Siemens, GIC, and other investors. CFTC and ESMA signed an enhanced Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding cooperation and the exchange of information with respect to certain registered derivatives clearing organizations established in the US that are CCPs recognized by ISMA under European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR). On 9/28, the SEC proposed rules to extend Regulations ATS and SCI to US Treasuries and other Government Securities Markets and a concept release on electronic F1 trading platforms for corporates and munis. The filing wasn’t published in the Federal Register until 12/31/20, which started the clock on the 60-day comment period. Companies in the S&P 500 look ready to report a marginal increase in profits for Q4 2020, according to Refinitiv Data, which is better than the expected 10% decline. This might calm concerns about overheated valuations. Deutsche Bank reported a 2020 profit of EU 624 million, surging back from a loss of EU 5.27 billion in 2019, and defying expectations. The surge in retail trading that sent small-cap stock prices soaring also fueled a 70% jump in equity options to a record monthly high in January, according to Options Clearing data. Retail traders are particularly enamored with Call Options on individual stocks. The SEC is reviewing online media posts for evidence that fraud played a part in the trading frenzy that triggered extreme volatility in the stocks of GameStop, AMC Entertainment, and other companies.  That volatility caused short-sellers to get crushed on a massive rally. Some market participants suggest professional investors may have had a role in the Reddit-fueled rally. Margin Calls and collateral demands from clearinghouses, like DTCC, during the GameStop episode, protected the clearing system, but may increase risk elsewhere in the financial system, academics say, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. With fintech firms and giant technology companies providing more competition to traditional banks, Financial Stability Institute chairman Restoy is discussing the most appropriate and fairest method for regulating their activities. Rising prices in Germany and the Netherlands pushed up Eurozone inflation in January by more than expected, according to Eurostat. The ECB’s gauge of core inflation, which declined 0.3% compared with December, but soared 1.4% compared with January. BoE is reportedly warning banks about EU equivalence, per Bloomberg.  Exchanges are cutting fees and rolling out innovative features to persuade sponsors of ETFs to list products with them. LSEG is focusing on Refinitiv’s (owned by London Stock Exchange Group) loss of the data provider’s market share to Bloomberg. 

A proposal by some NY state lawmakers to enact a stock-transfer tax to overcome a projected budget shortfall, is being criticized by major financial exchanges and industry groups. Opponents of the tax said that the tax would be passed on to investors and pension funds and would lead to more financial firms leaving the state, taking jobs with them. NY firms and their employees are already dealing with high personal tax rates (state, city, federal), a cap on deductibility of mortgages, the question of taxability of NYC firms’ employees earning money at home in rural areas that are even out of state, and firms dealing with expensive commercial real estate in the City for employees working remotely. There are a lot of reasons piling up for firms to consider moving elsewhere, especially since the pandemic ‘continuity planning’ has yielded a successful remote trading/selling solution, allowing firms to have their employees working from almost anywhere. Of course, there are a lot of issues that have to be tackled with that, including cyber-security, supervision, retention of files and communication, connectivity, risk management communication, etc.  Ant Group has reportedly agreed to terms of a restructuring with Chinese regulators that effectively turns the firm into a financial holding company. This will make Ant capital rules similar to those of banks, per Reuters. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. There has been an asset reallocation out of Treasuries and into stocks, on the heels of US politics and violence in DC.

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I haven’t decided yet rather to trim this list to just important dates):

02/03/21  30,723.60

01/13/21   31,060.47

12/31/20   30,606.48

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

01/13/21 at 3,809.84

02/03/21 at 3,830.17

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, then backed off, then shot higher again to a new record.

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,595.06. Nasdaq closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

01/13/21 at 13,128.95 

02/03/21 at 13,610.54  

The US Treasury curve has steepened even more.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on (trimmed list):

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

01/04/21 at 0.11%

01/13/21 at 0.14%

02/03/21 at 0.11%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

12/06/19 at 1.64%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

05/10/20 at 0.21%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

01/04/21 at 0.16% record low!

01/13/21 at 0.22%

02/03/21 at 0.17%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

12/15/20 at 0.37%

01/04/21 at 0.36%

01/13/21 at 0.48%

02/03/21 at 0.46%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 0.64%

01/04/21 at 0.64%

01/13/21 at 0.80%

02/03/21 at 0.81%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 0.92%

01/04/21 at 0.93%

01/13/21 at 1.10%

02/03/21 at 1.15%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/15/20 at 1.65%

01/04/21 at 1.66%

01/13/21 at 1.82%

02/03/21 at 1.92%

Housing News:

The Work-From-Home (WFH) phenomena is expected to have long-lasting effects on housing inventory, per HousingWire.com. Yet, experts are optimistic about the housing market in 2021. Marcia Fudge vows to end discrimination as HUD secretary. President Biden is considering a $15,000 homebuyer tax credit to boost home-buying. Home prices surged to a 6-year high in November 2020. Zillow says to expect another record year for home sales in 2021. Housing Starts hit their highest pace this past month since 2006. The Obama Presidential Center project has cleared federal review, after more than 4 years.  It will be located in Jackson Park. Carnegie Management is being sued by tenants for damaging non-paying tenants’ credit. Private equity firms Stone Point Capital and Insight Partners agreed to buy the real estate data firm CoreLogic for $6billion. Bank of America has pledged another $10 billion to its affordable homeownership program over the next 4 years, per Bloomberg. One year into the pandemic, Fifth Avenue is full of empty stores. NY suburban home inventory is depleted but the demand remains high. Francis Suarez is trying to make Miami the next Big Tech mecca. Global commercial real estate surprising ended on a strong note in Q4, with deal volume rising 84%. Simon Property Group has lost control of one of its malls in suburban Atlanta, as it has fallen to foreclosure. Deutsche Bank foreclosed on Simon’s Town Center at Cobb Mall. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repoInterestingly, today I saw an article in Inside Higher Ed that outlined the idea of offering people the option of paying for a 50-year subscription for education. With all the career transitions and re-skilling going on these days, a plan that covers the educational costs of those job pivots doesn’t sound that crazy, does it? So, with the Finance Academy idea of a subscribed education model, along with the PAC for continuing networking, education, and question-answering, with this article as a backdrop, it sounds like we are really on to something!

Tom Hayes, a former UBS trader who was convicted of manipulating LIBOR, who was recently released from prison, says there is no need to replace the benchmark, because it is now much save than it used to be and it is easier than changing everything to accommodate a new SOFR index in Swaps contracts.  

Securities Finance Industry Conferences

The Securities Financing industry had all of these annual conferences, several for many years, which used to be attended by thousands of firms, colleagues, and peers. After the financial crisis, the numbers of participants decreased, as firms’ budgets were reduced. Some of the conferences were excellent networking opportunities and some had extremely valuable panels and current information and issues being discussed. Some of the more recent ones focused information and questions on specific sectors to be more effective. There was also a major emphasis recently by many of the conferences on diversity and women’s participation in the industry. Unfortunately, COVID-19 led to the banishing of gatherings worldwide, and these conferences were cancelled or held for free virtually.  That isn’t a viable business plan for conference organizers though, as it can be costly to put these events on. So, our market is looking for other solutions to networking, discussing the pressing issues, and finding solutions for peers. Pierpoint Alpha Community is one such new solution.

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference was held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. 
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. 
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. 
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. 
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 
  • RMA cancelled its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management.
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  
  • Risk.net annual conference.. 
  • SIFMA annual meeting.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance was virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is held a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks. 

The next FOMC meetings are: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are in.  

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

A Federal Reserve survey of 9,693 small businesses showed a general downturn in revenue due to the pandemic, but also revealed that minority-owned entities were hardest hit. A higher proportion of minority-owned firms also reported that they expect to find it difficult to get credit in the coming months, all according to Reuters. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stressed the importance of passing a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package (No.3) with $350 billion in aid to help state and local governments, and to act swiftly. High borrowing by municipalities and states to cover budget shortfalls increased municipal bond issuance by a record level in 2020. The low cost of borrowing has made deficit funding more attractive than cutting spending. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are the latest significant earthquakes over just the last two days! In the last Repo Commentary of 1/19, gobal earthquake activity was extremely busy, particularly in South America, the Middle East, and Russia.

02/03 4.5 W of Sinabang, Indonesia

02/03 4.6 SE of Gisborne, New Zealand

02/03 5.1 NW of Finschhafen, Papua New Guinea

02/03 5.0 South Shetland Islands

02/03 4.9 Peru/Ecuador border region

02/03 5.1 ESE of Pangai, Tonga

02/03 4.7 SSW of Puerto El Triunfo, El Salvador

02/03 4.9 SE of Ust’-Kamchatsk Staryy, Russia (I have such a weird memory, I remember Kamchatka because of that board game Risk that we played in college 1978-1979. So weird!)

02/03 5.0 E of Tondon, Guinea

02/03 4.9 SW of Empaque Tarriba, Mexico

02/03 4.9 SSE of Mamuju, Indonesia

02/03 6.7 West Chile Rise

02/02 4.9 SE of the Loyalty Islands

02/02 4.5 WNW of Haveluloto, Tonga

02/02 5.3 SE of the Loyalty Islands

02/02 5.0 SE of the Loyalty Islands

02/02 5.6 SE of the Loyalty Islands

02/02 5.2 SE of the Loyalty Islands

02/02 5.7 SE of the Loyalty Islands

02/02 4.9 SE of the Loyalty Islands

Weather:

The Northeast, particularly New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts got socked with a terrible Winter storm on Monday and Tuesday this week, leaving as much as 20” of snow. It was the worst Winter storm for this area in at least 5 years. Some areas, including my hometown of Andover, MA, received 18” of snow, and had only received 16” of snow for the entire Winter of 2019-2020. Here in Florida, we had been enjoying 70-degree weather last week, that somehow popped up into the mid-80s. Then, on Tuesday morning it was 48-degrees and very windy, very unusual for Florida. The positive though is that it is 24% humidity outside here, which is also unusual, more like Arizona and Las Vegas (look it up, it’s because they water their lawns and golf courses). But, Friday, it will return to the low to mid-80s again with 70% humidity here. More snow is scheduled in the Northeast this weekend. In fact, there are 2 more winter storms in the approach pattern for the Midwest and the Northeast this weekend and next week.  Denver has a day of sunny warmth, followed by a day of snow and arctic temps. That’s actually very normal for most of Colorado.  Metro Detroit has winter kicking in full blast over the next few days. Philadelphia was still getting snowflakes as I write this on Wednesday, after their biggest snow in 5 years.  Sunshine has returned to DC. New Jersey got rain, but could get snow in the next storm.  Punxsutawney Phil came out of COVID-19 quarantine, saw his shadow, and went back into quarantine for another 6 weeks of winter. One man is dead after an avalanche in Utah left him buried in the snow on Square Top Mountain on Saturday.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

It turns out that they were both wrong, and it has become the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There have now been 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates there have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud we had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  I am hearing that Spring Training will likely be postponed, as my Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp (which I considered playing in this year, now that I have a new knee) was cancelled to give Spring Training extra time. However, MLB intends to HAVE Spring Training, but they have not decided yet (according to my friends at the Marlins and Cardinals) whether they will have fans in the seats and whether they will do live National Anthems. However, they did take my videos for the National Anthem and “God Bless America”, to possibly use them on the scoreboard. A week later, I finally heard back from the other ballpark here, Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for the Nationals and the Astros, and they also don’t know if there will be fans and if there will be live Anthems, but they also took my videos, potentially to be played on the scoreboard.  Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated.  

The Red Sox appear to be interested in a reunion with one of their former relievers, Brandon Workman. The Angels appear interested in Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. Red Sox great, 2B Dustin Pedroia, on the team 15 years and through 3 World Series championships, has finally decided to retire. The knee injury he suffered 3 years ago, when Manny Machado spiked him sliding into 2nd base, and the subsequent surgeries, left him unable to return to the sport he loves. Similar to what Pete Rose did to Ray Fosse in an All-Star Game, ending Fosse’s career. The Yankees traded reliever Ottavino to the Red Sox, a rare trade between the two rivals, and usually it goes in the other direction. I wasn’t around for the Babe Ruth fiasco (even though some of you still think I was).  But, I do remember Luis Tiant, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Alan Embree, Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Lowe, Mark Bellhorn, Carl Mays, and Jacoby Ellsbury. I’m sure I’m missing some. I think Mike Torrez, who later coached me, was a Yankee first, and then gave up the Bucky Dent season tiebreaker winning home run to Bucky Dent in 1978, while with the Red Sox. The Indians and Eddie Rosario are nearing agreement on a new contract. The Indians re-signed 2B Cesar Hernandez. The Cleveland Indians have decided that their Spring Training facility, in Goodyear, AZ,  will NOT be open to fans in 2021. Five women have accused former Indians pitching coach and current Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway of lewd texts and harassing messages sent over the last 5 years. The Red Sox have bolstered their starting pitching, with the addition of Garrett Richards and re-signing of Martin Perez. Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr., 22, has been announced as the cover of the “MLB The Show 21” video game, the youngest player ever, since the game was introduced in 2006. As you may have heard, there will be NO 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame class of inductees. 2022 will also be a messy year for the Hall, as Alex Rodriguez (possible PEDs) and David Ortiz (DH) will be thrown into the controversial voting process, and the final year of eligibility will come up for controversial players Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling. 

MLB owners finally, last Friday, sent a proposal to the MLB Players Association, outlining a 154-game schedule for 2021, with the season to be delayed by one month. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season began this past weekend in Hawaii, at Kapalua, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago. The distance debate is the hottest issue in golf. It flamed up again on Tuesday, amid a big announcement from R&A and USGA on the next steps of their distance study. The debate centers around whether the pro golfers hit the ball too far and whether golf needs to change the rules to stop golfers from hitting the ball too far. They are researching 4 possible changes:

  • Changing the way manufacturers test golf equipment
  • Changing the current specifications of golf equipment
  • Limiting the maximum lengths of golf clubs to 46 inches
  • Letting “committees conducting competitions” implement specific equipment standards that would “result in shorter hitting distances”

Patrick Reed was embroiled in another Rules controversy, during the 3rd round of the Farmers Insurance tournament at Torrey Pines (which he went on to win by 5 strokes). Reed hit his 2nd shot on the par-4 10th hole, his ball took a bounce and settled in the rough. He apparently did not see the bounce, and he and a Rules official said he had an embedded ball and took a drop. Also in the 3rd round of the same tournament, Rory McIlroy encountered a near-identical situation on the par-5 18th hole, except he didn’t call for an official. 

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL.

Let’s start with the teams that didn’t make the Playoffs and the growing number of head coaches who have been fired.  Falcons fired Dan Quinn in October. Lions fired former DC of Patriots Matt Patricia. Texans fired coach and GM Bill O’Brien in October.  The Jaguars fired Doug Marrone on 1/4/21 (which is considered Black Monday in the NFL for jobs).  The Chargers fired Anthony Lynn on 1/4/21. The Jets fired Adam Gase on 1/3/21. I think this list will grow. Urban Meyer finalized a deal to become Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. 

Now, to the Super Bowl, which will be played this Sunday in Tampa Bay.

The Chiefs had a bye for Week 1 of the Playoffs as the No.1 AFC team. The Bills, who beat the Colts and the Ravens, to go up against the Chiefs, found out that the Super Bowl defending champions, who had just beaten the Browns, were up to the task, putting the Chiefs back into the Super Bowl behind QB Patrick Mahomes. On the NFC side, the Packers wound up as the No.1 NFC team and so got the bye. The Bucs, behind QB Tom Brady, beat the Saints, after losing twice to them during the season, as QB Drew Brees had a sub-par performance for the Saints. That put the Bucs up against the Packers and the Bucs and the Packers’ coach, managed to beat the Packers. So, yes, Tom Brady is back in the Super Bowl, the first year out of a Patriots’ uniform. He has a record 6 Super Bowl victories and is going for his 7th. It will not be an easy task against the redhot Chiefs and QB Patrick Mahomes. This is the first time in NFL history that a team in the Super Bowl is playing in their home stadium. 

The Lions are parting ways with QB Matt Stafford and are looking for a place to trade him. The two most likely candidates were the New England Patriots (after a miserable year with QB Cam Newton) and the LA Rams. Stafford announced Monday that he is nixing the Patriots as a trade destination. Late Tuesday, it was announced that Stafford had landed with the Rams. The Patriots did get back the Lions head coach, Patricia, who had been the Patriots previous defensive coordinator. Why are the Dallas Cowboys still considered “America’s Team” and so popular, even though their last Super Bowl was 25 years ago? Yesterday, the family of longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer announced that he would be moved to a hospice facility in North Carolina. Schottenheimer, 77, has Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season kicked off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. Rafael Nadal (no.2 in the world) had to withdraw with a “stiff low back” from the ATP Cup. Australia was unable to take advantage of Spain however. In the other night session tie, Russia beat Argentina. Defending ATP Cup champions, Serbia, barely won, by calling on Novak Djokovic (no.1 in the world) to beat Denis Shapovalov, after Serbian Dusan Lajovic was swept by Milos Raonic. Serbia will now face Germany today (Thursday), with a spot in the semi-finals at stake. Italy made a comeback against Austria. Serena Williams’ preparations are reportedly on track for her return to tennis. Australian Open 2020 defending champion, Novak Djokovic, said that he really wants the 2021 Australian Open and that his goal is to add to his 17 Grand Slam singles titles, and to beat the only 2 players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who each have 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Many analysts expected Djokovic to have reeled off the US Open and French Open last year, along with the Australian Open, but then COVID-19 screwed up the entire schedule and even cancelled Wimbledon. The Australian Open would have been played already by now, in a normal year, but it is delayed for another 3 weeks. 

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. 

2020-2021 NCAA Football season was a very strange season, with the start delayed, most teams playing with NO fans (which really took away, in my opinion, any home-field advantage that they had), and many games either cancelled or postponed (but you can’t really make a game up with a packed weekly schedule). So, consequently, the College Football Playoff Committee, after the AP Coaches and other rankers, had to determine whether a 5-1 team was as good or better than an 11-0 team, and we had weird amounts of games played for each conference and each team. There were some conferences that started later than others and some that only played teams in their OWN conference, and it was a mess. I don’t even know if this qualifies as an ‘asterisk’ season or sport. Anywho, we all struggled to make meaning of games that we were starving to see, since all the other sports were shut down, and it didn’t make as much sense as we hoped. However, by sheer dumb luck or by real sifting, the 2020-2021 NCAA College Football Playoff came down to two teams that are usually at the top (lately) anyway, No.1 Alabama and No.3 Ohio State. They played this past Monday in Miami, at whatever that stadium for the Dolphins is now called. The Buckeyes got whooped by the Crimson Tide, 52-24.  It was Alabama’s 6th National Title and coach Nick Saban’s 7th.  He broke the record for any college football coach.  It was a very strange season to get there and, even looking at their records should show you the weirdness, but here we are:

1.          Alabama (13-0)

2.          Clemson (10-2)

3.          Ohio State (7-1)

4.          Notre Dame (10-2)

5.          Texas A&M (9-1)

6.          Oklahoma (9-2)

7.          Florida (8-4)

8.          Cincinnati (9-1)

9.          Georgia (8-2)

10.        Iowa State (9-3)

11.        Indiana (6-2)

12.        Coastal (11-1)

13.        UNC (8-4)

14.        Northwestern (7-2)

15.        Iowa (6-2)

16.        BYU (11-1)

17.        USC (5-1)

18.        Miami (8-3)

19.        LA-Lafayette (10-1)

20.        Texas (7-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (8-3)

22.        San Jose State (7-1)

23.        NC State (8-4)

24.        Tulsa (6-3)

25.        Oregon (4-3)

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments in early 2020, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

The 2020-2021 season began in November. We are deep into it now, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 01/31/21:

  1.  Gonzaga (17-0) 
  2.  Baylor (16-0)
  3.  Villanova (11-1)
  4.  Michigan (13-1)
  5.  Houston (15-1)
  6.  Texas (11-3)
  7.  Ohio State (14-4) 
  8.  Iowa (12-4)
  9.  Oklahoma (11-4)
  10. Alabama (14-4)
  11. Tennessee (12-3)
  12. Illinois (11-5)
  13. Texas Tech (12-5)
  14. Virginia (11-3)
  15. Creighton (13-4)
  16. Virginia Tech (13-3)
  17. West Virginia (11-5)
  18. Missouri (11-3)
  19. Wisconsin (13-5)
  20. Florida State (10-3)
  21. UCLA (13-3)
  22. Florida (10-4)
  23. Kansas (11-6)
  24. Purdue (12-6)
  25. Drake (16-0) 

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. 

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this past season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The United States shocked Canada and just won the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship by a score of 2-0 in Edmonton on Tuesday! Spencer Knight (soon to be a Florida Panther) made 34 saves for his 3rd shutout of the tournament, setting US WJC career and single-tournament records. It was the first shutout by the US in the semifinal round or championship game in history! It was only the 5th championship for the US, and 4 of those titles came by wins over Canada (2004, 2010, 2017, 2021). Team USA Trevor Zegras (soon to be an Anaheim Duck) was named the tournament MVP. 

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) has been delayed and started 1/13/21.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There was also divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic.  However, this realignment has been discussed for a few years now. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. This is this season’s odd configuration:

NORTH (all Canadian)

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Vancouver Canucks

Winnipeg Jets

WEST

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Phoenix Coyotes

Colorado Avalanche

LA Kings

Minnesota Wild

San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

Las Vegas Golden Knights

CENTRAL

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Detroit Redwings

Florida Panthers

Nashville Predators

Tampa Bay Lightning

EAST

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

The 7 Canadian teams will play this season in a separate realigned division. Training camp for the American NHL teams began on 1/3/21. The NHLPA is still planning on allowing its players to return to the Olympics in 2022. The governors of the six New England states and New Jersey have extended a ban on interstate youth hockey through the end of January 2021. Boston Bruin captain, Zdeno Chara, 43, has agreed to a one-year $795,000 contract with the Washington Capitals for 2021. He is the oldest player in the NHL and tallest player at 6’9”. He played 14 seasons for the Bruins. New Jersey Devil’s No.1 pick, Nico Hischier, will not participate in training camp, after injuring his leg training in Switzerland earlier this month. He was the No.1 pick in the 2017 Draft and signed a 7-year/$50.75 million contract in 2019 that begins this season. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, 38, said Monday that he is scheduled for open-heart surgery. He had announced 12/17/20 that he could not play this season because of a heart condition. He had signed a one year/$1.5 million contract with the Rangers, after his contract was bought out. Chicago Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach will be out 4-5 months, after wrist surgery from an injury at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. Ilya Kovalchuk is officially headed back to the KHL. The veteran signed a 2year deal with Avangard Omsk last Saturday, returning to the Russian league for the first time since 2017-2018.  He spent 5 years in the KHL starting in 2013-2014 and was one of the best players in that league at the time. At his hockey peak, Kovalchuk was one of the most dominant goal scorers in the NHL, scoring at least 40 goals six different times in his career and 50 goals twice. Stanley Cup Champion Lightning will be without their All-Star, Nikita Kucherov, for the entire regular season, after hip surgery. NBC Sports announced that NBC and NBCSN will begin broadcasting NHL games on 1/13 and feature roughly 100 games of the 31 NHL teams during the regular season. The New Jersey Devils have postponed their next 3 games this week, as 10 players are now on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol-related absences list. So far, the NHL has had 14 games postponed since 1/13 start. Early on in the 2021 season (maybe 9-14 games in), the Central Division is led by the Hurricanes at 7-6-1, the East Division is led by the Flyers at 7-2-1, the West Division is led by the Blues at 7-2-1, and the North Division is led by the Canadiens at 7-1-2.

NBA:

Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. Some stadiums are forced to deal with 10% of capacity attendance. Celtics’ TD Garden allowed ZERO fans at games. The Hornets also followed suit with NO fans. Cavs can have 300 fans at games. Rockets will have reduced capacity of fans. Pelicans will have 4% capacity of fans.  Raptors will have 3,200 fans maximum. Magic will have 4,000 fans maximum.  Jazz will have only a few thousand fans. Other teams with NO fans to start the season: Bulls, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Thunder, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards.  We are into Week 2 of the NBA 2020-2021 season now. Stephen Curry and Tobias Harris were named NBA Players of the Week. Stephen just put up a 62-point effort!  Spencer Dinwiddie has had successful ACL surgery.  Mavs star Luka Doncic has been sidelined with contusion of quadriceps. Chris Paul is quickly making his presence known on the West-leading Suns (I remember how they were the worst team for a decade). HOF Paul Westphal (noted Celtic) has died at the age of 70. Still Houston star, James Harden, not traded, was scratched from a game against the Kings because of a sprained ankle. Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson was fined $25,000 for making contact with an official. Carmelo Anthony has now passed Tim Duncan for 14th on all-time list of career scoring, averaging 23.5 points per game in more than 1,100 career games. Sacramento Kings seem happy about their No.12 draft pick, Tyrese Haliburton.   

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed from 5/2/20. It was run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. The Preakness Stakes was moved from 5/16/20 to 10/3/20. The Belmont Stakes was shifted from 6/6 to 6/20. So, the 3rdleg of the Triple Crown became the 1st leg, the 1st leg became the 2nd leg, and the 2nd leg became the 3rd leg. It was awfully confusing and all the races were held without fans. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Authentic beat him in the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness was won in an upset by a filly, Swiss Skydiver. Global superstar Goldikova has died at age 16. She was one of the world’s top racehorses of any sex or surface in the past 15 years. She was dominant in her 5 seasons on the track, winning 17 of 27 starts for $7,176,551. Details have emerged from attempted murder charge against jockey CJ McMahon. NY Governor Cuomo is pushing for mobile sports betting. Mucho Gusto has been retired with a soft-tissue injury. Racing has begun in Australia. 

Racing:

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2020, Chase Elliott won. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the 3rd father-son duo to win the title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale).  In 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2021 regular season will begin with the Daytona 500 on 2/14/21. A bizarre Martin Truex Jr. retirement rumor has emerged. 

Formula One began 2020 with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown. Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. 

IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

3-time Indianapolis 500 and two INDYCAR championships winning team owner, U.E. “Pat” Patrick, has died at age 91. INDYCAR Race winner and Indianapolis 500 veteran, John Paul Jr., has died at age 60. The St. Petersburg Firestone Grand Prix has shifted to April 25. 

Travel News:

The Sriwijaya Air plane that crashed in Indonesia on Saturday had not flown in 9 months, grounded during the pandemic. But it was reportedly inspected before resuming operations, according to the Transportation ministry. Indonesian authorities were able to locate the crash site and found the black boxes of the plane that carried 62 people to their death. It was a Boeing 737-500. Virgin has released a concept video showing what the Virgin Hyperloop, a high-speed pod that could travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 45 minutes. JetBlue has unveiled Epic Suites for Mint passengers in first class. Maui, Hawaii is requiring travelers to download exposure notification app for duration of their stay. Users will be notified via the app if they’ve possibly been exposed to COVID-19. Yosemite’s rare “Firefall” phenomenon is back. The Northeast snowstorm cancelled hundreds of flights this week. The CDC is now requiring masks to be worn on all public transportation.  A portion of California’s Highway 1 collapsed into the ocean, after a mudslide, near Big Sur. British Airways will use VeriFly Mobile Health Passport for flights from London to the US.  New York City restaurants will finally be permitted to reopen indoor dining at 25% capacity, starting 2/14. Canada has announced new quarantine restrictions and has now suspended flights to Mexico and Caribbean. American Airlines has cancelled more than 250 flights after its regional carrier, PSA Airlines, was grounded over inspection issue, which had to do with the nose gear door. They have since resumed the flights. PSA Airlines flies to 90 airports throughout the US. United Airlines launched COVID-19 Preclearance Program for travelers to Hawaii. Viking Cruises is launching a stunning new river ship so you can cruise the Nile in luxury. You can now buy a COVID-19 test from a vending machine at Oakland Airport. Egypt’s first high-speed train line will connect the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, when they paint the Chicago River (or ice) green, has been cancelled this year.  Thanks a lot, COVID-19!

Health News:  

As of this evening (02/03), globally, more than 2,263,792 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 104,248,610 people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 26.5 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 450,088. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (226,309), Mexico (159,533), India (154,596), and UK (109,547). COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe.

More countries are beginning to use the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, Sinovac’s CoronaVac inoculation, including the Philippines and Turkey, despite a trial in Brazil in which its effectiveness was only slightly above the WHO’s 50% threshold. Canada has been criticized for its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Canada has authorized COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech. China has reimposed lockdowns, as it battles worst virus outbreak in months. COVID-19 is taking a toll on Mexican health workers. Israel plans to vaccinate everyone by March. Iceland will allow its residents to skip its quarantine and testing requirements, if they show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine. New Zealand PM says borders will remain closed to tourists until citizens are vaccinated. 

A 9-year-old boy on Sunday, died within 24 hours of receiving a positive test result for COVID-19. The first US cases of COVID-19 Variant from South Africa have been detected in South Carolina. Experts are now recommending citizens to double-mask for COVID-19 protection. The US has now hit 1 million COVID-19 vaccines on average per day. Scientists are now studying second generation COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, that could protect against evolving virus or specific strains. 

Researchers are repurposing used personal protective equipment (PPE) into materials for roads. The recycling solutions involves combining shredded surgical face masks with recycled concrete aggregate to create a sustainable material. 

Animal News:

The EU food safety regulator proclaims that bugs are safe for humans to eat. A rare white kangaroo was born at New York Animal Park. Oklahoma may soon have an official Bigfoot hunting season, with a $25,000 prize for catching it. A new study shows that the US regulators do not know where all its fur farms are. An elephant was brutally set on fire just for wandering onto Indian property. Major, the White House German shepherd, is the first-ever rescue dog in the White House. Vegan ‘butchers’ chopped up over 2 billion beans for plan-based meats in 2020. ExxonMobil has decided to stop sponsoring the cruel Iditarod Race, where hundreds of sled dogs have died. In a mountain range too steep to cross, in Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security is spending millions of dollars to build 5 miles of border wall and destroy a canyon. Montana’s new Governor is scaring conservationists, as he talks about rolling back protections for public lands and waters. Endangered martens are living on the edge in Oregon. Wolverines have been denied Endangered Species protections. Pandemic-related drop in Oregon Lottery revenues could lead to a rise in the spiky-stemmed gorse, an invasive plant. The State of Alaska is suing the Federal Subsistence Board for approving an emergency hunt for the Organized Village of Kake, despite the tribal community’s dire food shortage. Target and other retailers have dropped Chaokoh coconut prodcuts, over forced monkey labor allegations. Southwest Airlines became the last airline to ban emotional-support animals. In Idaho, authorities are investigating the dumping of 34 dead ducks. Drug-lord Pablo Escobar’s hippos have now invaded Colombia’s waterways and reportedly need to be culled, according to a new study. Hippos are extremely dangerous, particularly to humans. 

Entertainment News:

Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals have been cancelled indefinitely. Amid Mardi Gras parade cancellations, New Orleans residents have been transforming and painting their homes into elaborate ‘floats’. The list of the 78th Golden Globe Awards nominees has been released. Movie MANK leads Golden Globe nominations with 6. Netflix is dominating the list, with 20 nominations. It is going to be a weird Awards season this year. The Golden Globes will be televised with bicoastal hosts, for the first time, with Tina Fey live in NYC and her best friend, Amy Poehler, in Beverly Hills. The ceremony is adapting to the pandemic. Dolly Parton has not received the COVID-19 vaccine yet, even though she donated $1 million to Moderna to develop it. Marilyn Manson has posted a statement following abuse allegations. Silento has been charged with murdering his cousin. Hal Holbrook, veteran actor who portrayed Mark Twain, has died at age 95. He was a legendary Emmy and Tony Award winning actor. He had a prodigious career on stage and screen. In 1973’s movie MAGNUM FORCE, Holbrook played corrupt police Lt. Briggs to Clint Eastwood’s inspector Harry Callahan, and after Lt. Briggs dies from a bomb in his moving car, Callahan utters one of Eastwood’s most famous movie lines, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Gayle King’s daughter, Kirby Bumpus, got married at Oprah Winfrey’s home. Icon singer, Tony Bennett, revealed that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Dustin Diamond, Saved By The Bell, star, has died at the age of 44 from lung cancer, although he never smoked. The Sex and the City revival will address the COVID-19 pandemic. Jamie Tarses, influential TV executive, has died at age 56.  Kelly Dodd of Real Housewives of Orange County reacted to Positive Beverage dropping her, following her COVID-19 remarks. Singer Kelly Rowland announced the birth of her 2nd child.  If you are interested, I am currently binge-watching Netflix’s Designated Survivor, which is excellent. Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci are starring in the end-of-life movie, SUPERNOVA. A new lawsuit claims that the NFL uses race to determine compensation for head injuries. Oscar winner Jared Leto is starring in the new thriller, THE LITTLE THINGS. Jazmine Sullivan is happy to be joining country star Eric Church to give a memorable Super Bowl National Anthem this Sunday. Once again, they didn’t call me. ESPN is using new technology for a documentary to bring back Al Davis and Pete Rozelle to life. The documentary will be from the point of views of the legendary Oakland Raider owner and former NFL Commissioner. Sundance Film Awards were just handed out with CODA and SUMMER OF SOUL the top winners. Cable news ratings have tightened, with big months for CNN and MSNBC.  Chadwick Boseman got 2 nominations for NAACP Image Awards. A producer who says disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped her over 7 years, says she wants him deposed for a lawsuit, despite a looming settlement. The British WWII veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown, as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for healthcare workers, has died after testing positive for COVID-19, at age 100. US country singer Morgan Wallen has been dropped by radio stations over racial slur he made on a video, despite his apology. Mariah Carey has been sued by her sister over “vindictive” book. 

Technology & Space News:

Google has closed the deal to purchase Fitbit, as Justice Department probe continues.  It’s the dawn of a new era in human spaceflight, one in which anyone who has enough money can fly to space.  Private company Axiom Space has announced its first all-commercial astronaut crew, which is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) for an 8-day mission early next year. So far, 3 paying customers, who each shelled out $55 million for the trip, are American investor Larry Connor (who will serve as pilot), Canadian investor Mark Pathy, and Israeli investor Eytan Stibbe. They will fly under the command of former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is now a VP at Axiom Space and a veteran of 4 spaceflights. The crew will of investors will undergo an intense training program, comparable to the training of professional astronauts. In space, each private astronaut will be assigned to perform scientific research and experiments during the mission. This is a bit of shock to me, these aren’t the first private citizens in space! Seven. Others have flown to the ISS in the past as commercial astronauts or cosmonauts, and they’ve flown on a government spacecraft (Russia’s Soyuz system).  The Axiom crew will hitch a ride in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which became the first private spacecraft to successfully bring astronauts to the ISS and back to Earth in 2020. Axiom plans on flying up to two missions to the ISS each year, starting with this 2022 Mission 1.  COVID-19 has been fueling a huge demand for air purifiers, but experts are warning of the risks. Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO of Amazon.  Andy Jassy will be the new CEO. Alibaba revenues soared, but Ant Group bond float is uncertain. Google’s co-founder has set up a family firm in Singapore. Bebo chief has revealed how he aims to take on Facebook. Home working is increasing cyber-security fears among firms and employees. McKinsey is halting operation of banking-analysis product CIB Insights and is investigating possible unauthorized activity. Some team members have reportedly been places on leave or dismissed, according to the Financial Times.

US News:

The 117th US Congress has begun. Chairwoman Waters of the Financial Service Committee, and its 6 Subcommittees, said that “the FSC will continue to work tirelessly to fight the pandemic and make sure the financial system works for everyone.” Although the House of Representatives is a majority for the Democrats, the Senate is split down the middle 50/50, which is both rare in American history and a challenge for the Biden administration. As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President last week, Amanda Gorman became the 6th and youngest poet to recite a poem at the US Presidential inauguration ceremony. She is just 22-years-old, and joined the likes of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, with her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”  President Biden is committed to the 3rd wave of stimulus checks for the COVID-19 pandemic, but is open to more limitations on who is eligible to receive the $1400 relief checks. Two members of the White House Council of Economic Advisers say the CBO’s prediction that 7 million people will remain jobless in 2021 is a dire situation and are urging immediate action, including the rapid launch of an economic relief program. 

I actually heard something from an active duty soldier that sounded alarming, yesterday, that Homeland Security is preparing to mobilize the National Guard and dispatch them across the US and enforce a 2-week quarantine of the nation, under the martial law called the Stafford Act. But, members of the Ohio National Guard came out yesterday and said that the letter on their letterhead is a HOAX. The letter is circulating online. 

Four people were injured at an industrial park near Los Angeles. Here in Florida, about 45 minutes south of me in Sunrise, two FBI agents were killed and 3 more officers were injured, as they tried to serve a search warrant on a suspect in a case involving violent crimes against children. He was ready with an AR-15 automatic rifle and opened fire on them as they approached his door. He was ultimately killed. 

Bankruptcy:

Costco announced that it will soon close all photo centers in all of its clubs. NHL star, Evander Kane, of the Sharks, has filed for personal bankruptcy, after accumulating $26.8 million of debt. He may not play anymore either. Shale gas pioneer, Chesapeake Energy will emerge from bankruptcy court as a $5.13 billion enterprise, having gained dramatically since filing. Lenders will have control of the company, ending a contentious trial. Flynn Restaurant will buy half of Wendy’s burger joints, operated currently by bankrupt NPC Quality Burgers. The rest will be bought by several other existing Wendy’s franchises. Hedge fund manager, Dan Kamensky, the founder of Marble Ridge Capital, has pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud in the Neiman Marcus bankruptcy. 

International News:

According to the WSJ, Iran is assembling gear to produce key nuclear-weapons material. Israel has struck Iran-linked targets in Syria with airstrikes, killing dozens of people. The WHO is on a mission for the last 6 months with China to figure out how COVID-19 spread to humans, but no progress has been shared. Italy has begun the biggest Mafia trial in decades. An Irish inquiry has found that 9,000 infants died in homes for unwed mothers. $13 million has vanished from a South Korean casino. OCEANS 14?  The US will designate Yemen’s Houthis as a Terrorist Group. China has reimposed lockdowns, as it battles worst virus outbreak in months. The US has banned cotton and tomato imports from China’s Xinjiang Region. This affects apparel imports and products assembled in third world countries and broadens the US effort to address allegations of forced labor. The US Supreme Court is making it harder for a multimillion-dollar lawsuit involving centuries-old religious artworks obtained by the Nazis from Jewish art dealers to continue in US courts. Proud Boys have been added to Canada’s list of terrorist groups. Canadian Gen. Jonathan Vance will be investigated over allegations of inappropriate behavior. Elected civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged after Myanmar army coup. Uighur camp detainees are alleging systemic rapes. Kaja Kallas became the first female PM of Estonia. In Russia, protests against the arrest of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s primary opponent, occurred in more than 120 towns and cities. 

Florida:

I will be singing monthly on a Saturday night at Zuccarelli’s in West Palm Beach, performing Elvis, as well as Neil Diamond, Michael Buble, Johnny Cash, Jason Mraz, Roy Orbison, Josh Turner, Broadway, etc. So, I mentioned that I put myself on the waiting list for the COVID-19 vaccine here in Florida. They just sent an appointment update to me from Palm Beach County, “everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one, however at our current rate, this process will take months, not weeks. We appreciate your continued patience.” So, I don’t know if my Ancestry.com results will come before or after the vaccination?

Jokes and Such:

Okay, I decided that since you people are only going to give me dirty jokes that would just get me in trouble, in the context of distanced learning and your kids likely at home on the computer, I would provide you some CLEAN jokes that you can share with them. That’s just how I am J

1. There’s a fine line between a numerator and a denominator. (…Only a fraction of people will get this clean joke.)

2. What do dentists call their x-rays?

Tooth pics!

3. Did you hear about the first restaurant to open on the moon?

It had great food, but no atmosphere.

4. What did one ocean say to the other ocean?

Nothing, it just waved.

5. Do you want to hear a construction joke?

Sorry, I’m still working on it.

6. Did you hear about the fire at the circus?

It was in tents!

7. Why do ducks have feathers?

To cover their butt quacks!

8. What’s the difference between a hippo and a zippo?

One is really heavy and the other’s a little lighter.

9. What does a nosey pepper do?

It gets jalapeño business. 

10. Why should you never trust stairs?

They’re always up to something.

11. When does a joke become a ‘dad’ joke?

When it becomes apparent.

I promise that they will continue to be corny or cornier, unless you give me some good quasi-clean jokes for adults…

Repo Commentary-01/19/21

I apologize, but this will not look like the normal Repo Commentary.  Unfortunately, on Friday, as I was getting ready to send out my new Repo Commentary and was preparing a magazine article, a marketing plan, and two projects for other clients, my clumsy right hand knocked a drink across my laptop keyboard and phone and the entire workstation desk I have created in my studio.  So, I have spent the weekend, recreating files and applications from my iPhone to a borrowed laptop. Unfortunately, I lost the entire Repo Commentary and have to revert back to the 1/07/21 Repo Commentary, and have also had to recreate my work for the 3 clients and magazine. But, no obstacle is too difficult, and I have gerry-rigged a system, until my laptop is repaired. There is a a backlog on Mac part orders I understand of about 2-3 weeks, due to the pandemic.  Maybe this is the perfect time for me to finally ‘streamline’ this Repo Commentary, and make it easier/quicker to read and easier/quicker to write.  Thank you all for understanding.  

It is Day 314 (on 01/19) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. For many, unemployment benefits ended, for others (particularly my friends in gig industries) there were no benefits.  Some of us are still waiting for our second Stimulus check of $600 (including me).

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (12/03), I wrote about my latest project. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

So, I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry. I am consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans. As I said, I am writing a magazine article.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

I hope everyone had good holidays and a Happy New Year!!! I know that you will all see this on 01/07/21, which is the day before Elvis Presley’s birthday, so I wanted to wish the King of Rock n’ Roll an early Happy Birthday on 1/8. He would be 86-years-old. 

Holidays or Events (01/19:

• As I write this today (1/18), most US traders and exchanges are closed, because it is Martin Luther King Day here in the US, celebrating the great civil rights leader.

• Artist as Outlaw Day

• Brew a Potion Day

• Good Memory Day

• Gun Appreciation Day

• New Friends Day

• Printing Ink Day

• National Popcorn Day

• Rid the World of Fad Diet and Gimmicks Day

• Tin Can Day

• World Quark Day

• Tenderness Toward Existence Day

• Husband’s Day in Iceland

• Kokborok Day (Tripura, India)

• Theophany/Epiphany (Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy)

Some Famous People Born on (01/19):

• 399-Pulcheria, Byzantine Empress and Saint

• 1200-Dogen Genji, founder of Soto Zen

• 1544-Francis II of France

• 1803-Sarah Helen Whitman, American poet, essayist, and romantic interest of Edgar Allan Poe

• 1807-Robert E. Lee, American general of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War

• 1809-Edgar Allan Pie, American short story writer, poet, and critic

• 1839-Paul Cezanne, French painter

• 1908-Ish Kabibble, American comedian and cornet player

• 1930-Tippi Hedren, American model, actress, and animal rights-welfare activist

• 1939-Phil Everly, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (Everly Brothers)

• 1942-Michael Crawford, English actor and singer, original Phantom in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

• 1943-Janis Joplin, American singer-songwriter

• 1944-Shelley Fabares, American actress and singer

• 1944-Thom Mayen, American architect and academic, designed the San Francisco Federal Building and Phare Tower

• 1945-Trevor Williams, English singer-songwriter and bass player

• 1946-Dolly Parton, American singer-songwriter and actress

• 1947-Paula Deen, American  chef and author

• 1949-Robert Palmer, English singer-songwriter and guitarist

• 1953-Desi Arnaz Jr., American actor and singer

• 1955-Paul Rodriguez, Mexican-American comedian and actor

• 1957-Ottis Anderson, American football player and sportscaster

• 1962-Jeff Van Gundy, American basketball player and coach

• 1966-Stefan Edberg, Swedish tennis player and coach

• 1969-Junior Seau, American football player

• 1971-Shawn Wayans, American actor, producer, and screenwriter

Daily Weird Facts:

Although both are sea waves, a tsunami is not a tidal wave. A tidal wave is the wave motion of the tides and is a shallow water wave caused by the gravitational interactions of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. A tsunami is a huge catastrophic wave that can cause enormous damage and fatalities. It is usually caused by severe storms or major earthquakes. 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23 

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

$50.70/barrel on 01/04

$52.92/barrel on 01/19

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has risen 10 cents higher in the past 2 weeks, to $2.19/gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24 

108.60 on 01/07 

109.07 on 01/16 

103.18 on 02/03 

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

100.05 on 07/27/20 

105.26 on 11/10/20

104.38 on 11/30/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

103.15 on 01/04/21

103.92 on 01/19/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426 

01/07 at $1.1478 

01/16 at $1.1396 

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

07/27 at $1.2314

11/10 at $1.1821

11/30 at $1.1925

12/16 at $1.2196

01/04 at $1.2246

01/19 at $1.2137

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655 

01/07 at $1.2770 

01/16 at $1.2880 

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

07/27 at $1.3458

11/10 at $1.3255

11/30 at $1.3319 

12/16 at $1.3494

01/04 at $1.3571

01/19 at $1.3614

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24 

1.3297 on 01/07 

1.3255 on 01/16 

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17


1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

1.2730 on 07/27

1.3014 on 11/10

1.3000 on 11/30 

1.2752 on 12/16

1.2787 on 01/04

1.2740 on 01/19

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it was trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs. It has continued to back off those highs, closed on 11/30/20 at 1,774.00. On 12/16/20, gold was back up to $1,858.20. On 01/04/21, it was up to $1,948.00. Today (01/19/21), it is trading at $1,839.02 per ounce.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25 

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

$37,144.50 on 01/19/21 (it did hit $40,675 on 01/08, but has retreated a bit since then)

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. On 3/13/20, it cratered at $3,867. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  But, Bitcoin then began replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There was also growing interest from institutional investors. After sneaking up again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through and rocketed to a new record, where it is in that territory now. Since I last reported two weeks ago, when it was 6-7 times higher than the low from March, it has more than doubled again (now nearly 10 times higher than that March low)! JPMorgan now says that Bitcoin could rally to $100,000! One market follower said on Twitter: “it’s not a rally. It’s not a bubble. It’s a chain reaction spreading like a fire in cyberspace.”

Brexit:

The UK technically left the EU on 1/31/20, but the subsequent deal between the two came into force 1/1/21. Most UK drivers will still be able to use their normal driving license while driving in EU countries. However, there are some exceptions, such as those with paper licenses and licenses issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Those people will need and additional International Driving Permit (IDP), which can be purchased at Post Offices. There are two types of IDPs, depending on which countries you will be driving in. As for car insurance, you will need to provide proof that you vehicle is insured while driving in Europe, which is in the form of a green card, which needs to be procured from your insurer before you travel to Europe. There are varying rules on whether you need a GB sticker on your license plate or not, depending on the plate you have and which country you are traveling to. 

The Guardian writes that Brexiters are waking up to the damage they have done. For Britain’s chemical industry, Brexit’s red tape is now beginning. Financial markets and firms’ shift to France and out of London, is beginning to accelerate, per Bloomberg. The Bank of France sees the chance to improve financial structure. Europe still needs to set up its own operations, including clearing houses. By the end of 2020, financial institutions had transferred about 2,500 jobs and EU 170 billion in assets to France from the UK. Germany’s Bundesbank says EU 400 billion in assets had been already transferred there. Morgan Stanley is reportedly shifting EU 100 billion in assets to Germany in the coming months. The ECB has estimated that when the dust settles, some 24 banks will move to the Eurozone and bring with them EU 1.3 trillion. Meanwhile, cross-channel Brexit cargo rejections are increasing, particularly hurting Scotland’s seafood and shellfish markets. Boris Johnson is promising GBP 23 million in compensation for exporters who have lost orders due to delays. Supermarkets in Northern Ireland are suffering lack of supplies from England. Some lorry drivers were shocked when they arrived in Amsterdam, as inspectors confiscated their ham sandwich lunches.  The new regulations are not just about the cargo in the back of the lorry, but also food products in the front cab. 

Global Financial News:

President Biden has nominated Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). He has also chosen Gary Gensler to lead the SEC, which signals tougher scrutiny. Rohit Chopra is from the FTC. JPMorgan Chase says its current cash holdings and marketable securities exceed regulatory requirements by about $450 billion, while Q4 earnings reports from Citigroup, PNC Financial Services and Wells Fargo also show that their cash assets have swelled. It appears that US banks are facing a dilemma of where to deploy these assets. The upcoming G-7 summit will take place in Cornwall, hosted by the UK.and will focus on the global economic recovery from COVID-19. Bank of America b eat profit expectations, but missed on revenue. It was still $20.2 billion in revenue, which Adam Sandler would say is “not too shabby”. A corporate bond rally has carried into 2021, as low borrowing rates and optimism on further economic relief, coupled with COVID-19 vaccines are bolstering confidence in companies withstanding the pandemic.  Financial firms are increasingly turning to digital labor to keep up with surging workloads and to adapt to changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Broadridge has been discussing the role digital labor is playing in the financial services and how the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation across the industry. Blackrock has acquired a minority interest in data science and sustainable investing analytics firm, Clarity AI, which will be incorporated into its investment operations platform Aladdin. This will ultimately provide users information on the social and environmental impact of more than 30,000 companies. Fitch Ratings has formed a partnership with integrity rating firm Sigma Partners to improve its ability to quickly detect misconduct by banks. The new Congress could open the door to cannabis banking. Remember, one of the problems with the burgeoning cash industry, like in Colorado, is that growers and retailers can’t put the cash in federal or national banks, because it is not legalized nationally, only in specific states. Currently, that would violate federal banking laws. Wells Fargo will close about 250 branches in 2021, as part of its $8 billion cost-cutting plan.  Since the end of Brexit transition period, US platforms have benefited from up to 50% of Euro and Sterling interest rate swaps trading moving from Europe and UK to the US. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. The Dow jumped 200 points today on better-than-expected Goldman Sachs earnings, China GDP, Facebook upgrade, and further US stimulus hopes. The market is now focusing on this week’s President Biden inauguration. 

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

01/18/21   30,814.26

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20   26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, and is now hovering just above that. 

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

01/07/19 at 2,549.69 

01/16/19 at 2,616.10 

02/06/19 at 2,706.53 

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56 

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

07/24/20 at 3,215.63

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

12/01/20 at 3,662.45

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

01/18/21 at 3,768.25

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. Nasdaq is now at record high. Nasdaq closed on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50 

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22 

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

12/01/20 at 12,355.11 

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

01/18/21 at 12,998.50

The US Treasury curve has steepened even more Wednesday, on the heels of news that Democrats had won the first of two Senate runoffs, which immediately raised 10year Treasury yields over the 1.00% mark, for the first time since March 2020. 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20% 

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

11/09/20 at 0.17%

12/01/20 at 0.17%

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

01/04/21 at 0.11%

01/15/21 at 0.13%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

12/15/20 at 0.18% 

01/04/21 at 0.16% wow!

01/15/21 at 0.20%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.44%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

12/15/20 at 0.37%

01/04/21 at 0.36%

01/15/21 at 0.46%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.68%

12/15/20 at 0.64%

01/04/21 at 0.64%

01/15/21 at 0.78% what a jump!

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.92%

12/15/20 at 0.92%

01/04/21 at 0.93%

01/15/21 at 1.11% over the magic 1%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 1.66%

12/15/20 at 1.65%

01/04/21 at 1.66%

01/15/21 at 1.85% what a jump!

Housing News:

2020 was a rough housing market year. The year began and COVID-19 shut construction down. It shut production of materials for construction. It left developers, builders, brokers, and mortgage bankers in a weird limbo as ‘non-essential’ workers. Five weeks into the pandemic, demand in the US housing market cratered due to the economic impact on the citizens. However, according to HousingWire, demand began to climb again after about 9 weeks. Unfortunately, there was little product to meet the demand. HousingWire says that there won’t be a Housing crash in 2021, despite media warnings to that effect, because the moderation of some housing data metrics, because home prices are still climbing at 6%, we would need a lot of forced selling and foreclosures (which could have happened since most forbearance plans for COVID-19 were due to end at the beginning of 2021) but the Biden administration is already proposing extending the national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until 9/30/21. As we have seen, yields in the 10year-30year area have already begun climbing in the US Treasury market and so have mortgage rates. Wells Fargo is continuing to lose mortgage market share. A Texas realtor, Jenna Ryan, who was among the 40,000 people that stormed the US Capitol is now responding to public backlash. She has had criminal charges filed against her. The city of Carson has turned luxury apartments into 150 units of ‘workforce housing’. There were rumors that the outgoing President Trump administration would spring an 11th hour effort to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but that was laid to rest when the two GSEs reached an agreement to limit their own growth, but without major structural changes. The agreement between the FHFA and the US Treasury includes a permanent ceiling on the agencies’ multifamily lending volume, requirements to focus on affordable housing, enabling them to0 retain much more of their profits, and an obligation to comply with rules that require them to set aside more regulatory capital. These provisions appear to put Fannie and Freddie on a path to stronger financial condition before completing the end of conservatorship. The agreement does leave more room for competitors to grab market share, as the two agencies are capped at $80 billion annually. In 2021, that cap goes down to $70 billion. Since 2008, when conservatorship began, Fannie and Freddie had to sweep all profits to the US Treasury. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:          

Tomorrow, there will be an exciting roll out of a new PAC product by Pierpoint Financial, which I will be involved in. And I won’t run another ad for the Finance Academy, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo.&nbsp;

My friend, Scott Skyrm, points out that the danger in monetary policy in the US of ZIRP is that the target federal funds rate or repo rates could go NEGATIVE. Now, of course, we are chatting about General Collateral Repo rates, not Specials rates, which have many times traded at negative rates. Specials are specific CUSIPS in certain types of securities that have a completely different risk dynamic and supply/demand characteristics, both from the Primary and Secondary outright markets, along with the Repo Market and Securities Lending market. You can tell, I just wrote a Lesson all about this. Anyway, back in July 2013, as Scott points out, GC Repo Rates (US Treasuries) hit .05%, very close to ZERO, and the Fed began its RRP Program (very similar to my former Direct Repo product, disintermediating the primary dealers and going to their main cash providers). There are a number of reasons why Negative rates would not be good in the US or at least would be very disruptive.  As Scott points out, the Fed has a couple of options to head this off at the pass:

• Interest on Excess Reserves-the Fed could raise the IOER rate, which would incent banks to move reserves to the Fed and away from Repo, potentially raising repo rates.

• RRP-the Fed has the ability to raise the Repo rate on this program, even above market repo rates, incenting those cash providers to put their cash with the Fed, rather than other collateral providers, potentially raising repo rates. 

Well, we will find, out what the Fed intends to do today, after the second day of the current FOMC meeting.

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.  

• Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.

• The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.

• They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.

• They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them. 

• They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.

• They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.

• They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.

• The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).

• Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.

• The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).

• The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets. 

• The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.

• The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.

• The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.

• COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER. 

• The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019. 

• They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.

• QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.

• Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.

• The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies. 

• Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual. The problem is that free virtual conferences/gatherings/networking is not a Business Model. So, Pierpoint’s new PAC concept will provide a solution here.)

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.

• IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.

• iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.

• PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.

• GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. 

• Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.

• IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  

• Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.

• GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.

• IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.

• Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.

• ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.

• ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.

• Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.

• National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.

• IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before.  

• Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.

• IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.

• Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 

• RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15.  I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).

• Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    

• Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.

• American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.

• Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.

• Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one. 

• SIFMA annual meeting.

• GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance will be held virtually on 12/3/20.

• FIS is holding a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). It has actually been trading closer to 0.035% lately. The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.  

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are:  : 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Not ironically, the approved members of this facility are actually the cash providers for the Fed’s own 22 Primary Dealers, who lately haven’t had the collateral available for these cash providers, partly because of regulations that the Fed, in a small part, has monitored to reduce balance sheets of Primary Dealers. In a weird family dance, the US Treasury is issuing collateral that the Primary Dealers sometimes have to buy and the Fed is providing through RPs the same collateral for the Primary Dealers to reverse repo, while at the same time, the Fed is providing the same collateral to many of the cash providers of the Primary Dealers in RRP. Sounds kind of like a Repo mis-Matched Book, to me. Is there a CCAR for them?

Former Fed Chair, Janet Yellen, is President Biden’s nominee for US Treasury Secretary. She is calling for action to quell the COVID-19 virus and restart the US economy. She also said to lawmakers that the government will not pursue a weaker dollar to secure a competitive advantage (or to pay the mounds of debt back with devalued US dollars.) This stance is opposite to what the Trump Administration wanted. She was in her confirmation hearing with the Senate Finance Committee. She is expected to also disclose the details on the upcoming $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

An earthquake on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi killed at least 92 people and injured more than 900 others. Here are the latest significant earthquakes over the last couple of days.  It is suddenly extremely active, particularly in South America, the Middle East, and Russia.

4.6 01/19 Fiji Region

4.2 01/19 Jurm, Afghanistan

4.5 01/19 NNE of Hihifo, Tonga

4.8 01/19 W of Hihifo, Tonga

4.7 01/19 N of Amahgai, Indonesia

4.3 01/19 SW of Pocito, Argentina

5.2 01/19 NNW of Dili, Timor Liste

4.8 01/18 WSW of Pocito, Argentina

4.9 01/18 WSW of Pocito, Argentina

5.3 01/18 WNW of Pocito, Argentina

4.9 01/18 SW of Pocito, Argentina

6.4 01/18 WSW of Pocito, Argentina

4.9 01/18 NNE of Palu, Indonesia

4.4 01/18 WSW of Golhisar, Turkey

4.4 01/18 ESE of Slamanca, Chile

4.7 01/18 ESE of Ofuhato, Japan

4.3 01/18 Russia-Mongolia border

4.7 01/18 SE of Lebedinyy, Russia

4.4 01/18 SE of Yatou, China

5.3 01/18 S of the Kermadec Islands

4.5 01/18 N of Bandar Abbas, Iran

Weather:

West Palm Beach has had mercifully 70-degree weather for the past week. A strong low pressure is centered off the Southern California Coast and is producing high winds in the Sierra-Nevada mountains, and central and southern coastal regions. Very dry conditions, combined with these high winds will produce extremely dangerous fire weather threats in the central and southern coastal regions. There is also heavy snow in the South and Central Rocky Mountains, and in the Great Lakes. There is heavy rain in Hawaii, which will continue. The Northeast is protected by a strong low pressure centered just off the coast, keeping conditions fairly dry. Typically, weather moves from the Great Lakes Region east to New England within one or two days. But, this low may keep the heavy snow at bay. A major snowstorm in Japan caused a 130-car pile-up on the Tohoku Expressway, killing one person and injuring 10 others. 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. 

According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

It turns out that they were both wrong, and it became the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There were 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates there have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21

There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific currently.  

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud we had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  I am hearing that Spring Training will likely be postponed, as my Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp (which I considered playing in this year, now that I have a new knee) was cancelled to give Spring Training extra time. However, MLB intends to HAVE Spring Training, but they have not decided yet (according to my friends at the Marlins and Cardinals) whether they will have fans in the seats and whether they will do live National Anthems. Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated.  I have not heard back from the other ballpark for the Nationals and Astros.  The Yankees will acquire Greg Allen from the Padres. Rumors are that the Yankees have the inside track on acquiring ace Corey Kluber, although the Red Sox were among the 25 teams that watched Kluber work out here at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches (the Spring Training site for the Astros and Nationals). Cubs Kris Bryant is now a trade rumor, as is teammate Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs are in the midst of dumping payroll, last week sending ace Yu Darvish and his catcher, Victor Caratini, to the Padres for Zach Davies and 4 prospects. They are listening to offers on every player, including star catcher Willson Contreras. Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel are also rumored to be tradeable, as they all become free agents after this season. The Padres rotation is impressive now, after adding Yu Darvish and Rays’ Blake Snell, both blockbuster trades last week. Now, they have added Joe Musgrove in a 3-team/7-player deal involving the Mets and Pirates yesterday. They join the World Series champ Dodgers and Yankees as the best odds to win the 2021 World Series and having the top rotations. The Braves and Nationals fill out the rest of the top 5 pitching rotations. Now, wait a minute! The braves just signed 2 of the best stars on the Indians’ squad, SS Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco! Look at that rotation now, with Syndergaard (however healthy he is), DeGrom, Carassco, and Stroman. The nicest part for Carrasco is that the Mets previously signed his catcher James Mc Cann to a 4-year/$40.6 million contract this winter. The Nationals signed Jon Lester, 37, to a one-year deal.  Astros superstar and free agent, George Springer, is expected to reach a deal somewhere this week. The Astros gave him a qualifying offer of $18.9 million. The Mets and the Blue Jays have been the front-runners, both giving him 9-figure offers!  Despite all the trade rumors, the Red Sox have not traded fan-favorite LF Andrew Benintendi. Ace Corey Kluber signed, but not with the Red Sox, but instead their nemesis, Yankees, for one year/$11 million. Several teams made 8-figure offers and the Yankees’ wasn’t the highest. 

Golf:

Spilling over from the MLB section, Aaron Hicks from the Yankees, pulled off a 303-yard hole-in-one on a par-4 hole at Silverleaf in Scottsdale, AZ, while golfing with Tiger Woods’ niece, Cheyenne Woods, another pro golfer. She happened to film the whole thing on her phone. The PGA Tour 2021 season began in Hawaii, at Kapalua, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week. World No.1 is currently Dustin Johnson, who lives about 10 miles up the road from me in Florida. He had a masterful season last year (culminating in winning the Masters in November), although the schedule was a mess and shortened from the pandemic. Only 3 of the 4 Majors were played, and they were all mixed up in order. Bryson DeChambeau, who also had a pretty good 2020 season (including winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July with a 313-yard driving average and winning the US Open in September) told reporters that his goal this year is to achieve a 210 mph average ball speed!  He currently leads the Tour with a 192.8 mph ball speed. He has yet to break 200 mph barrier in competition, which he feels will finally give him the shot distance he desires. He has been hitting and taking notes from friend and top-ranked World Long Drive competitor, Kyle Berkshire, who set the world record for ball speed with 228 mph, on his way to winning the WLD Final in 2019. They each are helping each other, as Berkshire wants to revive his playing career. DeChambeau hit 211 mph on the range already at Kapalua and hit an 8-iron 205 yards! Normal amateur distance for an 8-iron is about 120-130 yards.  The PGA, after a 9-month delay, will be rolling out its pace of play policy. Phil Mickelson turned 50 in June 2020, but said he is not giving up the PGA Tour yet and moving to the Champions Tour. He said, “when I stop hitting bombs I’ll play the Champions Tour, but I’m hitting some crazy bombs right now.” Anyway, back in Hawaii, the Tournament of Champions was won by Harris English (yeah, me either) in a playoff win over Joaquin Niemann (again no me neither). They were one stroke ahead of Justin Thomas, and I know that name. So all the bombing with drivers that the other players above were going to do, didn’t get it done. I’ve played and loved that Plantation Course (had my longest drive of \355 there in fact), but nothing easy when your ball breaks uphill on the green “because the ocean is that way.”  The next tournament was the SONY Open at Wailae  Country Club on Maui (I also have played there), and Kevin Na (usually a sportscaster lately) won. The PGA Tour’s next tournament is The American Express at the PGA West Tournament Course at La Qinta Country Club, CA. I got a gang together from Morgan Stanley to play there once, but I was in a hip-cast. And that’s all I’m going to say about it. After that, we have the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, CA.   

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players, other games have been postponed. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL. Week 17 of the irregular season has ended and we are now on to an abbreviated Playoffs this weekend.

Let’s start with the teams that didn’t make the Playoffs and the growing number of head coaches who have been fired.  Falcons fired Dan Quinn in October. Lions fired former DC of Patriots Matt Patricia. Texans fired coach and GM Bill O’Brien in October.  The Jaguars fired Doug Marrone on 1/4/21 (which is considered Black Monday in the NFL for jobs).  The Chargers fired Anthony Lynn on 1/4/21. The Jets fired Adam Gase on 1/3/21. I think this list will grow. The Rams have activated WR Cooper Kupp from reserve/COVID-19 list. Chase Young of the Redskins says he wants to face the GOAT, Tom Brady, now of the Bucs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson says he is out to erase the narrative about his playoff struggles. Former Panthers GM Marty Hurney is meeting with Washington and considered top candidate. Urban Meyer, yes you remember the name from NCAA and NFL before, is finalizing a deal to be head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Now, to the Playoffs schedule:

The Chiefs had a bye for Week 1 of the Playoffs as the No.1 AFC team. They faced the winner of the Colts vs Bills, which was the Bills. They struggled against them, but eventually won. Also in the AFC, the Steelers faced the Browns and got crushed. Worst defeat since 1976. So, then the Browns were up against the Chiefs.  Despite injuring QB Patrick Mahomes (tweaked nerve in neck), the Browns lost to the Chiefs and journeyman QB Henne.  The Titans were beaten by the Ravens, and their QB finally got that unlucky mojo off his back of losing every playoff game. The Ravens went up against the Bills and did not fare well, losing.  The Ravens have released veteran RB Mark Ingram. The Ravens also waived veteran QB Robert Griffin III, after 3 seasons. Somehow, I didn’t think I would ever write those words. The winners of those two games will face each other.  There are a lot less steps now. On the NFC side, the Packers wound up as the No.1 NFC team and so got the bye. They faced the Rams who beat the Seahawks. Although  a close game at the beginning, the Packers just overpowered the Rams. That left the Saints, who had beaten my Bears badly, and a rematch of Drew Brees, 42, and Tom Brady, 43, of the Bucs, who had ousted the Washington Football Team.  And, in a surprise Sunday night, in the first time in 6 games against the Bucs (2 this season against Brady), the Saints lost to the Bucs and the GOAT.  Next round, to decide which teams go to the Super Bowl, is the Chiefs vs the Bills and Bucs vs Packers (with another matchup of ancient gladiator QBs). The Rams five-time Pro Bowler Jon Arnett has died at age 85. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season kicked off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. The Australian Open was postponed by two weeks due to COVID-19 pandemic. Australian Open officials have rejected Djokovic’s calls for quarantine changes. At this point, Andy Murray is OUT for the Aussie Open.  72 players are now in Isolation, after the 5th positive Covid-19 test.  Rafael has kicked off his 800th consecutive week in the ATP top 10.  Thats impressive!  

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. The Paralympics, also scheduled for 2020, have been postponed, as well, to 2021. Ironically, the Winter Olympics, which are held two years after the Summer Olympics, are still scheduled for 2022, only one year after the Summer Olympics. Frankly, I can’t remember an athlete that performed in both Summer and Winter Olympics, so I don’t think the one year shortened resting period will be a factor. Ex-Olympic champion, Sofia Bekatorou, of Greece, has spoken out about sexual abuse, shocking the country. The former 2012 London Olympics boss says that the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will likely be disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic and “unlikely to go ahead in 2021.”

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. 

2020-2021 NCAA Football season was a very strange season, with the start delayed, most teams playing with NO fans (which really took away, in my opinion, any home-field advantage that they had), and many games either cancelled or postponed (but you can’t really make a game up with a packed weekly schedule). So, consequently, the College Football Playoff Committee, after the AP Coaches and other rankers, had to determine whether a 5-1 team was as good or better than an 11-0 team, and we had weird amounts of games played for each conference and each team. There were some conferences that started later than others and some that only played teams in their OWN conference, and it was a mess. I don’t even know if this qualifies as an ‘asterisk’ season or sport. 2020-2021 NCAA College Football Playoff came down to two teams that are usually at the top (lately) anyway, No.1 Alabama and No.3 Ohio State. They played each other for the Championship, even though one had played only 7 games and the other had played 12 games. And, how did they figure out that (4-3) Oregon was a Top 25 team? Riddle me that. On New Year’s Day, No.1 Alabama crushed No.4 Notre Dame and No.3 Ohio State surprisingly crushed No.2 Clemson. Anyway, Alabama, for their 6th National title, crushed Ohio State. It was actually the 7th National Title for coach Nick Saban. Meanwhile, Tennessee fired their coach amid an investigation into recruitment violations. So here are the final standings:

1.          Alabama (13-0)

2.          Clemson (10-2)

3.          Ohio State (7-1)

4.          Notre Dame (10-2)

5.          Texas A&M (9-1)

6.          Oklahoma (9-2)

7.          Florida (8-4)

8.          Cincinnati (9-1)

9.          Georgia (8-2)

10.        Iowa State (9-3)

11.        Indiana (6-2)

12.        Coastal (11-1)

13.        UNC (8-4)

14.        Northwestern (7-2)

15.        Iowa (6-2)

16.        BYU (11-1)

17.        USC (5-1)

18.        Miami (8-3)

19.        LA-Lafayette (10-1)

20.        Texas (7-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (8-3)

22.        San Jose State (7-1)

23.        NC State (8-4)

24.        Tulsa (6-3)

25.        Oregon (4-3)

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments in early 2020, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

The 2020-2021 season began in November. We are deep into it now, almost halfway through, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  My Michigan State Spartans, cruising in the Top 6 teams with a strong start this season, have fallen off the list of the Top 25 since.  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 01/18/2021:

1.  Gonzaga (14-0)

2.  Baylor (12-0)

3. Villanova (8-1)

4.  Iowa (12-2)

5.  Texas (11-2)

6. Tennessee (10-1)

7.  Michigan (11-1)

8.  Houston (11-1)

9. Kansas (10-3)

10. Wisconsin (11-3)

11. Creighton (10-3)

12. Texas Tech (11-4)

13. Virginia (9-2)

14. West Virginia (9-4)

15. Ohio State (11-3)

16. Virginia Tech (11-2)

17. Minnesota (11-4)

18. Alabama (11-3)

19. Missouri (8-2)

20. Clemson (9-2)

21. Oregon (9-2)

22. Illinois (9-5)

23. Connecticut (7-2)

24. UCLA (11-2)

25. Saint Louis (7-1)

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. 

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this past season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The United States shocked Canada and just won the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship by a score of 2-0 in Edmonton on Tuesday! Spencer Knight (soon to be a Florida Panther) made 34 saves for his 3rd shutout of the tournament, setting US WJC career and single-tournament records. It was the first shutout by the US in the semifinal round or championship game in history! It was only the 5th championship for the US, and 4 of those titles came by wins over Canada (2004, 2010, 2017, 2021). Team USA Trevor Zegras (soon to be an Anaheim Duck) was named the tournament MVP. 

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in October 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) has just started and is 5-6 games in.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There will also be divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. However, now this will be this season’s odd realignment (frankly, I thought it was more odd before):

NORTH (all Canadian)

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Vancouver Canucks

Winnipeg Jets

WEST

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Phoenix Coyotes

Colorado Avalanche

LA Kings

Minnesota Wild

San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

Las Vegas Golden Knights

CENTRAL

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Detroit Redwings

Florida Panthers

Nashville Predators

Tampa Bay Lightning

EAST

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

Okay, although it’s way too early, here are your current standings: 2021 NHL Central Division leaders-Tampa Bay Lightning tied with the Predators, East Division leaders-Washington Capitals tied with Islanders and Flyers, West Division leaders-Golden Knights tied with Wild, North Division leaders-Maple Leafs.  This year there are only 4 Divisions, with only 2 Conferences. 

NBA:

Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. Some stadiums are forced to deal with 10% of capacity attendance. Celtics’ TD Garden allowed ZERO fans at games. The Hornets also followed suit with NO fans. Cavs can have 300 fans at games. Rockets will have reduced capacity of fans. Pelicans will have 4% capacity of fans.  Raptors will have 3,200 fans maximum. Magic will have 4,000 fans maximum.  Jazz will have only a few thousand fans. Other teams with NO fans to start the season: Bulls, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Thunder, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards.  We are more than 13 games into  the NBA 2020-2021 season now. In the Eastern Conference, the early rankings are: Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, Pacers, Nets, and in the Western Conference, we have the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Suns, Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Grizzlies. The Cavaliers are reportedly going to trade or waive Kevin Porter Jr. after his food-throwing locker room outburst.  Nets’ Kyrie Irving reportedly bought a house for family of George Floyd.  James Harden is no longer a Houston Rocket, and instead a Net. 

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled. After 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic.

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

The 2021 NASCAR season begins in Daytona on 2/14/21. 

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel.  There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  He is to be awarded a knighthood. F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. 

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled.Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

Travel News:

President Trump was about to lift travel bans on visitors from much of Europe and Brazil, which has seen a huge spike in new cases of COVID-19. President Biden is blocking that travel ban change.  Boeing’s grounded B737-Max will be cleared for flying in Europe. The UK has suspended travel corridors, requiring all travelers to quarantine upon arrival. The corridor will be closed until at least 2/15/21. Eurostar Rail Service is facing financial woes due to COVID-19, as ridership has fallen 95% from where it was in March 2020. American Airlines passengers will soon be able to upload COVID-19 test results on international flights (starting 1/23/21). Major airlines have temporarily banned guns in checked baggage leading up to Inauguration in Washington, DC. 

Health News: 

As of today (1/19/21), there have been 95,725,830 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world (24,094,696 in the US) and 2,045,389 deaths in the world (399,264 in the US). 

COVID-19 deaths are rising in 30 US States. 

Nigeria has asked Australia for 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. In Germany’s mass vaccination campaign, 8 care home workers were accidentally given five times the normal dose. An international panel has accused China and WHO of reacting too slowly to news for the first COVID-19 cases, which were detected in December 2019, and fumbling the subsequent response. An international committee, with help from China, is hunting the Wuhan area for COVID-19’s origin (patient #1) and the lab leak theory. It has not been easy, as its a tangled mess of conspiracy and politics is complicating the investigation.  

Milan, Italy has banned smoking outdoors. Zhang Zan, the journalist who reported on China’s first COVID-19 outbreak, has received a 4-year sentence for her Wuhan reports from the government.  President Biden has picked a transgender woman as Assistant Health Secretary. 

Animal News:

A rare white North Island Brown Kiwi, Manukura, who hatched in 2011, and inspired a book and toys, has died. Don’t forget, Inauguration Day also brings Indogeration Day for Major, President Biden’s shepherd mix dog. A pet cat feared dead in a 2018 California mudslide has been found alive. Some jerk etched “TRUMP” into the side of a Florida manatee. The FDA warns that some pet foods have been recalled, after 28 dogs died. One of the most elusive animals found in Yellowstone National Park, the wolverine, has been caught on camera for the first time. A new whale-watching museum is opening in Norway and it’s shaped like a whale fin. Superstitious Brits are worried about a raven that disappeared from the Tower of London. 

Entertainment News:

Political commentator, Olivier Duhamel, has resigned as head of the National Foundation of Political Sciences, which oversees the prestigious Sciences Po university. Duhamel has been accused of sexual assault in France, which triggered an 80,000 person French MeToo campaign on Twitter. An Amazon Prime drama is sparking controversy in India. Hilaria Baldwin is denying that she faked her Spanish heritage, and her husband, Alec Baldwin maintains that she was born in Boston and grew up in Connecticut. Alec Baldwin also formally quit Twitter. Dr. Dre is back home after being hospitalized in Los Angeles. BATWOMAN has gotten a new lead actress, but Season 2 looks like the same bad show. Selena Gomez dropped a Spanish single “De Una Vez”. Producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector has died. Post Malone is donating 10,000 of his sold out Crocs to frontline workers. Anne Hathaway revealed that we have been calling her the wrong name. Tiger is a new series about Tiger Woods on HBO.  Its getting very good reviews. AVENGERS: ENDGAME nearly included post credits scene to set up WandaVision, which has been on some strange trailers recently. Sort of a cyborg man. I am going through Rotten Tomatoes TOP 157 Netflix series to try to binge watch more of the 100% rated ones (there are 20 at the top of the list). I think Queen’s Gambit or The Crown were the only top-rated ones I saw. Then they have a separate list for the 58 TOP series on Amazon Prime. By my count, i’ve binge watched 13 Netflix series completely with this pandemic. I’m still waiting for Mandalorian and the new Star Wars series to come out on Disney+.  

Technology & Space News:

Kenya’s digital tax is expected to negatively affect online business. The Kenya Revenue Authority is after ‘social media influencers.’  Qualcomm’s new chip will boost gaming on Motorola and Xiaomi phones. Parler website is back online after Amazon brought it offline. Microsoft’s Washington campus will become a COVID-19 vaccination site. The Trump administration reportedly hit Huawei’s US suppliers with last-minute restrictions. Microsoft is backing GM’s Cruise Automation self-driving car venture. NextMind’s dev kit shows the possibility of a player controlling virtual reality with their mind. SpaceX Starship SN9 relo9aded its Raptors ahead of high-altitude flight, boldly following SN8, which sacrificed itself. Chevy is teaming up with Walt Disney World to reveal both the brand-new Bolt EUV and refreshed Bolt EV hatchback. I saw another Chevy C8 Corvette, and aside from the 1963 Corvette, I think it is the best one they’ve ever built! It looks more like a Ferrari than the current Ferrari looks. 

US News:

President Trump became the first US President to be impeached twice, after the House of Representatives charged him with incitement of insurrection, regarding the 40,000 citizens storming the US Capitol. He is only the 3rd US President to be impeached (along with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton). President Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. Some media reports suggested that it was President Trump’s inflammatory Tweets, following the loss of 2 Senatorial seats in Georgia runoffs, that incited the massive fatal attack on the US Capitol. Trump later wrote that he condemned the attack. Twitter has permanently banned President Trump from the social media site that the President used to reach at least 73 million Americans directly, and bypass the media and his own speech writers. As is typical in the final days of a Presidency, President Trump is expected to pardon dozens of prisoners on his final day. The Trump supporter who was seen on camera rifling through Nancy Pelosi’s drawer has been arrested for ‘data theft’. The FBI is now vetting US Capitol guards and 25,000 National Guardsman in Washington, DC for the upcoming inauguration, as there is now concern of potential extreme elements within US law enforcement (something that Germany discovered when it began policing its own police). The US National Guard at the US Capitol has been authorized to use “lethal force”. Total US Unemployment is currently 10,735,000 and the Unemployment Rate is 6.7%. The Smithsonian is collecting artifacts from the Capitol riots. 

Bankruptcy:

The National Rifle Association has filed for bankruptcy. Even though the numbers I shared last Commentary showed a surprisingly low number of personal bankruptcies (Chapter 7 and 13), those figures were misleading, as they only captured through June 2020, and PPP, Stimulus Checks, extended Unemployment Benefits, and foreclosure/eviction moratorium (and mortgage forbearances) likely pushed off personal bankruptcies to later in 2020 or to 2021. What the data did not show was Chapter 11 bankruptcies, which are typically large individuals and companies. Here is the growing list of corporate bankruptcies (in order of filing):

Papyrus

Bar Louie

Krystal

Pier 1 Imports

Modell’s Sporting Goods

True Religion

J. Crew Group 

Neiman Marcus

JC Penney

Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes

Tuesday Morning

GNC

Chuck E. Cheese

NPC International (Pizza Hut, Wendy’s)

Brooks Brothers

Sur La Table

Muji USA

Lucky Brand

RTW Retailwinds (New York & Co.)

Ascena Retail Group (Ann Taylor, LOFT, Lane Bryant)

California Pizza Kitchen

Lord & Taylor

Tailored Brands (Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A Bank)

Stein Mart

Century 21

Sizzler USA

Ruby Tuesday

Friendly’s

Guitar Center

Francesca’s

International News:

Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected as President of Uganda. Dutch PM Mark Rutte and his cabinet resigned as a result of a child welfare fraud scandal.  The Italian PM is facing a crucial vote to stay in power. The largest Mafia trial in decades has begun in Italy. A Thai woman who has been insulting the monarchy for years in posts on social media has received the harshest penalty for such behavior, receiving a 43-year prison sentence. An Egyptian woman has been arrested for baking “indecent” cakes, sum topped with genitalia. A stolen 500-year-old painting has been found in a cupboard and has been returned to the Italian museum, whose staff was actually unaware that it was missing. Libya talks have centered around steps for an interim government. The UN says that an Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique has created a humanitarian crisis. The World Food Program said the cost of food had soared and that the violence had limited access to water, sanitation, and education. About 570,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Hundreds of people have been killed by the jihadists, since 2017. Loujain al-Hathloul, 31, of Saudi Arabia, who had gained international attention for her campaign to win the right for Saudi women to drive, has been jailed, despite global outcry. 

Florida:

For the first time since 3/15/20, nearly the start of the pandemic, I successfully sang my first singing gig at Zuccarellis Ristorante in West Palm Beach 12/18 6:30-10:00pm. I did half Elvis and half Christmas songs in a 2-hour gig that became 3 ½-hours. I’ve been asked to return monthly and perform there. Publix pharmacies here in Florida will have the COVID-19 vaccine now, but only for 65-year-olds and older, healthcare personnel, and residents and staff of longterm care facilities. 

Jokes and Such:

If you all keep sending me dirty jokes that I can’t publish in the Repo Commentary, I’m going to have to remove this section.  Again. 

Repo Commentary-01/07/21

It is Day 302 (on 01/07) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, that depends on which conspiracy theories to which you ascribe.

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. For many, unemployment benefits could end soon.

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (12/03), I wrote about my latest project. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

So, I am far from retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

I hope everyone had good holidays and a Happy New Year!!! I know that you will all see this on 01/07/21, which is the day before Elvis Presley’s birthday, so I wanted to wish the King of Rock n’ Roll an early Happy Birthday on 1/8. He would be 86-years-old. 

Holidays or Events (01/06):

  • Apple Tree Day
  • Bean Day
  • Cuddle Up Day
  • Epiphany (Three Kings Day)
  • National Take A Poet to 
  • Lunch Day
  • National Shortbread Day
  • National Smith Day
  • National Take Down the Christmas Tree Day
  • National Technology Day
  • World Day for War Orphans
  • Armed Forces Day in Iraq
  • Befana Day in Italy
  • Christmas (Armenian Apostolic Church)
  • Christmas Eve (Russia)
  • Christmas Eve (Ukraine)
  • Christmas Eve (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Christmas Eve (North Macedonia)
  • Little Christmas (Ireland)
  • Prettandinn (Iceland)
  • Pathet Lao Day (Laos)

Some Famous People Born on (01/06):

  • 1367-Richard II of England
  • 1412-Joan of Arc, French martyr and saint
  • 1878-Carl Sandburg, American poet and historian
  • 1900-Maria of Yugoslavia, Queen of Yugoslavia 1922-1934
  • 1910-Kid Chocolate, Cuban boxer
  • 1934-Sylvia Sims, English actress
  • 1937-Lou Holtz, American football player, coach, sportscaster
  • 1944-Bonnie Franklin, American actress and singer
  • 1951-Don Gullett, American baseball player and coach
  • 1957-Nancy Lopez, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1960-Paul Azinger, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1960-Howie Long, American football player and sportscaster
  • 1970-Gabrielle Reece, American volleyball player, sportscaster, actress

Daily Weird Facts:

 Humans have caused 322 animal extinctions over the past 500 years.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”—Steve Martin 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23 

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

$50.70/barrel on 01/04

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has risen 10 cents higher in the past 2 weeks, at $2.19/gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24 

108.60 on 01/07 

109.07 on 01/16 

103.18 on 02/03 

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

100.05 on 07/27/20 

105.26 on 11/10/20

104.38 on 11/30/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

103.15 on 01/04/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426 

01/07 at $1.1478 

01/16 at $1.1396 

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

07/27 at $1.2314

11/10 at $1.1821

11/30 at $1.1925

12/16 at $1.2196

01/04 at $1.2246

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655 

01/07 at $1.2770 

01/16 at $1.2880 

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

07/27 at $1.3458

11/10 at $1.3255

11/30 at $1.3319 

12/16 at $1.3494

01/04 at $1.3571

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24 

1.3297 on 01/07 

1.3255 on 01/16 

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

1.2730 on 07/27

1.3014 on 11/10

1.3000 on 11/30 

1.2752 on 12/16

1.2787 on 01/04

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it was trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs. It has continued to back off those highs, closed on 11/30/20 at 1,774.00. On 12/16/20, gold was back up to $1,858.20. On 01/04/21, it was up to $1,948.00.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25 

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  But, Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. After sneaking up now again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through to a new record, where it is now. Since I last reported two weeks ago, when it was 6-7 times higher than the low from March, it has more than doubled again (now nearly 10 times higher than that March low)! JPMorgan now says that Bitcoin could rally to $100,000! One market follower said on Twitter: “it’s not a rally. It’s not a bubble. It’s a chain reaction spreading like a fire in cyberspace.”

Brexit:

Britons have been blocked from entry to EU nations as ports faced the first day under new rules, on Monday.  EU firms also refused UK deliveries over the Brexit tax changes.  The long Brexit process has come to a conclusion. Northern Ireland’s first minister is seeing a “gateway of opportunity” in the trade deal between UK and EU, which removes “some of the difficulties with the NI Protocol.” Gibraltar has received a UK-Spain deal to keep the border open. Channel Tunnel operator Getlink says there will not be any congestion caused when the new trading rules go into effect, referring to the Dover-Calais route. The UK technically left the EU on 1/31/20, but the subsequent deal between the two came into force 1/1/21. Most UK drivers will still be able to use their normal driving license while driving in EU countries. However, there are some exceptions, such as those with paper licenses and licenses issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Those people will need and additional International Driving Permit (IDP), which can be purchased at Post Offices. There are two types of IDPs, depending on which countries you will be driving in. As for car insurance, you will need to provide proof that you vehicle is insured while driving in Europe, which is in the form of a green card, which needs to be procured from your insurer before you travel to Europe. There are varying rules on whether you need a GB sticker on your license plate or not, depending on the plate you have and which country you are travelling to. 

Global Financial News:

Manufacturers in the Eurozone ended 2020 on a high note, with activity increasing at the fastest rate since mid-2018, according to IHS Markit.  Germany was the main driving force, since factories in that country have mostly remained open during COVID-19 related lockdowns. The FTSE 100 index of shares in London had a nice first full day of trading in 2021, up 1.73%.  The NYSE may still delist 3 Chinese telecommunications firms, reportedly, after withdrawing the threat earlier. US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reportedly contacted NYSE’s president to say he disagrees with the decision to NOT delist them. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has determined that Wells Fargo has improved its anti-money laundering compliance program sufficiently, and has released it from a 2015 consent order, according to Wells Fargo. However, Wells Fargo remains under a 2018 consent order from the OCC regarding sales of mortgage and insurance products. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. 

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

01/07/19 at 2,549.69 

01/16/19 at 2,616.10 

02/06/19 at 2,706.53 

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56 

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

07/24/20 at 3,215.63

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

12/01/20 at 3,662.45

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, but has backed a little off of that since.  

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,595.06. Nasdaq closed on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50 

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22 

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

12/01/20 at 12,355.11 

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

The US Treasury curve has steepened even more Wednesday, on the heels of news that Democrats had won the first of two Senate runoffs, which immediately raised 10year Treasury yields over the 1.00% mark, for the first time since March 2020. 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20% 

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

11/09/20 at 0.17%

12/01/20 at 0.17%

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.44%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

12/15/20 at 0.37%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.68%

12/15/20 at 0.64%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.92%

12/15/20 at 0.92%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 1.66%

12/15/20 at 1.65%

Housing News:

Well, shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plunged Tuesday on the announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he’s all but ruled out letting them exit US control before he steps down, and become privatized. His decision actually prevents a major policy change that could have risked disrupting the $10 trillion mortgage market. US lenders are pressing lawmakers to extend an accounting waiver that helps them offer more forbearance measure to their customers beyond the 12/31 deadline. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

My friend, Scott Skyrm, points out that the danger in monetary policy in the US of ZIRP is that the target federal funds rate or repo rates could go NEGATIVE. Now, of course, we are chatting about General Collateral Repo rates, not Specials rates, which have many times traded at negative rates. Specials are specific CUSIPS in certain types of securities that have a completely different risk dynamic and supply/demand characteristics, both from the Primary and Secondary outright markets, along with the Repo Market and Securities Lending market. You can tell, I just wrote a Lesson all about this. Anyway, back in July 2013, as Scott points out, GC Repo Rates (US Treasuries) hit .05%, very close to ZERO, and the Fed began its RRP Program (very similar to my former Direct Repo product, disintermediating the primary dealers and going to their main cash providers). There are a number of reasons why Negative rates would not be good in the US or at least would be very disruptive.  As Scott points out, the Fed has a couple of options to head this off at the pass:

  • Interest on Excess Reserves-the Fed could raise the IOER rate, which would incent banks to move reserves to the Fed and away from Repo, potentially raising repo rates.
  • RRP-the Fed has the ability to raise the Repo rate on this program, even above market repo rates, incenting those cash providers to put their cash with the Fed, rather than other collateral providers, potentially raising repo rates. 

Well, we will find, out what the Fed intends to do today, after the second day of the current FOMC meeting.

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.  

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them. 
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets. 
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER. 
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019. 
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies. 
  • Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual)

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. 
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before.  
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 
  • RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15.  I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one. 
  • SIFMA annual meeting.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance will be held virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is holding a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). It has actually been trading closer to 0.035% lately. The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.  

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are facing now.  For 2021, the Fed announced FOMC meetings for: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

At the 11/05/20 FOMC meeting, the Fed kept interest rate target near 0% and said the economy is still well below pre-pandemic levels, despite certain markets moving to pre-pandemic levels or even record levels. As I said in the last Repo Commentary, with a change in Administration, a political fight is brewing, according to the NY Times, over whether to extend critical programs that the Federal Reserve implemented in March and April, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those programs are set to expire on 12/31/20. It is unclear whether President Trump’s administration, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, or Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, have decided if they will continue the programs.

In today’s FOMC statement, we look for what the Fed will adjust to keep GC Repo rates from going negative, which could lead to other problems. We also will see what they intend to do about large-scale buying of US Treasuries (continuing QE 4 or 5, whoever is counting), what the economic outlook is, and if there is a plan for any other emergency lending facilities. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are the latest significant earthquakes over the last couple of weeks.  It’s been pretty quiet:

4.4 12/14 SSE of Waimea, Hawaii

6.1 12/10 E of Yilan, Taiwan

6.1 12/06 E of Iquique, Chile

3.6 12/06 SSW of Warner Springs, CA

4.4 12/06 W of Lakeport, CA

3.6 12/05 WSW of Aguanga, CA

6.4 12/01 ESE of Nikolski, AK

Weather:

West Palm Beach has had a merciful four-day cold spell that brought temps fortunately down to the 50s, after being in the mid-80s last week and windy. But, today, temperatures will return to the 70s, until another cold front hits at the end of the weekend.  

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ended November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

It turns out that they were both wrong, and it has become the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There have now been 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates there have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud we had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  I am hearing that Spring Training will likely be postponed, as my Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp (which I considered playing in this year, now that I have a new knee) was cancelled to give Spring Training extra time. However, MLB intends to HAVE Spring Training, but they have not decided yet (according to my friends at the Marlins and Cardinals) whether they will have fans in the seats and whether they will do live National Anthems. Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated.  I have not heard back from the other ballpark for the Nationals and Astros.  The Yankees will acquire Greg Allen from the Padres. Rumors are that the Yankees have the inside track on acquiring ace Corey Kluber. Cubs Kris Bryant is now a trade rumor, as is teammate Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs are in the midst of dumping payroll, last week sending ace Yu Darvish and his catcher, Victor Caratini, to the Padres for Zach Davies and 4 prospects. They are listening to offers on every player, including star catcher Willson Contreras. Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel are also rumored to be tradeable, as they all become free agents after this season. The Padres rotation is impressive now, after adding Yu Darvish and Rays’ Blake Snell, both blockbuster trades last week. They join the World Series champ Dodgers and Yankees as the best odds to win the 2021 World Series and having the top rotations. The Braves and Nationals fill out the rest of the top 5 pitching rotations. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season will begin in Hawaii, at Kapalua, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions this week. World No.1 is currently Dustin Johnson, who lives about 10 miles up the road from me in Florida. He had a masterful season last year (culminating in winning the Masters in November), although the schedule was a mess and shortened from the pandemic. Only 3 of the 4 Majors were played, and they were all mixed up in order. Bryson DeChambeau, who also had a pretty good 2020 season (including winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July with a 313-yard driving average and winning the US Open in September) told reporters that his goal this year is to achieve a 210 mph average ball speed!  He currently leads the Tour with a 192.8 mph ball speed. He has yet to break 200 mph barrier in competition, which he feels will finally give him the shot distance he desires. He has been hitting and taking notes from friend and top-ranked World Long Drive competitor, Kyle Berkshire, who set the world record for ball speed with 228 mph, on his way to winning the WLD Final in 2019. They each are helping each other, as Berkshire wants to revive his playing career. DeChambeau hit 211 mph on the range already at Kapalua and hit an 8-iron 205 yards! Normal amateur distance for an 8-iron is about 120-130 yards.  The PGA, after a 9-month delay, will be rolling out its pace of play policy. Phil Mickelson turned 50 in June 2020, but said he is not giving up the PGA Tour yet and moving to the Champions Tour. He said, “when I stop hitting bombs I’ll play the Champions Tour, but I’m hitting some crazy bombs right now.”

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players, other games have been postponed. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL. Week 17 of the irregular season has ended and we are now on to an abbreviated Playoffs this weekend.

Let’s start with the teams that didn’t make the Playoffs and the growing number of head coaches who have been fired.  Falcons fired Dan Quinn in October. Lions fired former DC of Patriots Matt Patricia. Texans fired coach and GM Bill O’Brien in October.  The Jaguars fired Doug Marrone on 1/4/21 (which is considered Black Monday in the NFL for jobs).  The Chargers fired Anthony Lynn on 1/4/21. The Jets fired Adam Gase on 1/3/21. I think this list will grow. The Rams have activated WR Cooper Kupp from reserve/COVID-19 list. Chase Young of the Redskins says he wants to face the GOAT, Tom Brady, now of the Bucs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson says he is out to erase the narrative about his playoff struggles. 

Now, to the Playoffs schedule:

The Chiefs have a bye for Week 1 of the Playoffs as the No.1 AFC team. They will face the winner of the Colts vs Bills. Also in the AFC, the Steelers will face the Browns and the Titans will face the Ravens. The winners of those two games will face each other.  There are a lot less steps now. On the NFC side, the Packers wound up as the No.1 NFC team and so get the bye. They will face the winner of the Saints vs Bears. Also in the NFC, the Seahawks will face the Rams and the Washington Football Team will face the Bucs. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season will kick off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. The Australian Open is likely to be postponed by “one or two weeks” due to COVID-19 pandemic. ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev says that the Australian Open could be “really dangerous” for tennis players. Novak Djokovic reached the semis of the ATP Finals. Medvedev, who stunned No.1 Djokovic in the semis, came from behind to beat Dominic Thiem in the Finals. Thiem had beaten Rafael Nadal.

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. The Paralympics, also scheduled for 2020, have been postponed, as well, to 2021. Ironically, the Winter Olympics, which are held two years after the Summer Olympics, are still scheduled for 2022, only one year after the Summer Olympics. Frankly, I can’t remember an athlete that performed in both Summer and Winter Olympics, so I don’t think the one year shortened resting period will be a factor. 

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

2020-2021 NCAA Football season was a very strange season, with the start delayed, most teams playing with NO fans (which really took away, in my opinion, any home-field advantage that they had), and many games either cancelled or postponed (but you can’t really make a game up with a packed weekly schedule). So, consequently, the College Football Playoff Committee, after the AP Coaches and other rankers, had to determine whether a 5-1 team was as good or better than an 11-0 team, and we had weird amounts of games played for each conference and each team. There were some conferences that started later than others and some that only played teams in their OWN conference, and it was a mess. I don’t even know if this qualifies as an ‘asterisk’ season or sport. Anywho, we all struggled to make meaning of games that we were starving to see, since all the other sports were shut down, and it didn’t make as much sense as we hoped. However, by sheer dumb luck or by real sifting, the 2020-2021 NCAA College Football Playoff will come down to two teams that are usually at the top (lately) anyway, No.1 Alabama and No.3 Ohio State. They will play each other this Monday 1/11/21 for the Championship, even though one has played only 7 games and the other has played 12 games. And, how did they figure out that (4-3) Oregon was a Top 25 team? Riddle me that. On New Year’s Day, No.1 Alabama crushed No.4 Notre Dame and No.3 Ohio State surprisingly crushed No.2 Clemson. Somehow, also strange, I wound up watching lesser bowls than those. Must have been the timing.  I did see a lot of Indiana vs Mississippi, a bit of NC State vs Kentucky, LSU vs Florida (which was a great game), UNC vs Miami (which was not from this universe), way more than I wanted of Texas A&M vs Tennessee, Oklahoma vs Iowa State (which was another good game), and We Are Marshall unfortunately losing to Buffalo. Clemson’s QB Trevor Lawrence is leaving Clemson for the 2021 NFL Draft.  It was a very strange season to get there and, even looking at their records should show you the weirdness, but here we are:

1.          Alabama (12-0)

2.          Clemson (10-2)

3.          Ohio State (7-0)

4.          Notre Dame (10-2)

5.          Texas A&M (9-1)

6.          Oklahoma (9-2)

7.          Florida (8-4)

8.          Cincinnati (9-1)

9.          Georgia (8-2)

10.        Iowa State (9-3)

11.        Indiana (6-2)

12.        Coastal (11-1)

13.        UNC (8-4)

14.        Northwestern (7-2)

15.        Iowa (6-2)

16.        BYU (11-1)

17.        USC (5-1)

18.        Miami (8-3)

19.        LA-Lafayette (10-1)

20.        Texas (7-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (8-3)

22.        San Jose State (7-1)

23.        NC State (8-4)

24.        Tulsa (6-3)

25.        Oregon (4-3)

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments in early 2020, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

The 2020-2021 season began in November. We are deep into it now, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  My Michigan State (after beating Notre Dame and Duke), as well as the rest of the Big 10, have been particularly strong at the start.  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 12/16/20:

  1.  Gonzaga (3-0) have had to suspend activities due to COVID-19
  2.  Baylor (4-0) crushed Illinois, but suspended activities due to COVID-19
  3.  Iowa (6-0) crushed UNC and Iowa State
  4.  Kansas (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  5.  Michigan State (6-0)
  6.  Tennessee (3-0)
  7.  Villanova (5-1)
  8.  West Virginia (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  9.  Virginia (3-1) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  10. Houston (4-0) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  11. Texas (5-1) beat UNC and Indiana
  12. Texas Tech (6-1)
  13. Wisconsin (5-1)
  14. Ohio State (5-0)
  15. Missouri (5-0)
  16. Creighton (4-2)
  17. Illinois (5-2)
  18. Rutgers (5-0)
  19. Duke (2-2)
  20. UNC (4-2)
  21. San Diego State (5-0)
  22. FSU (4-0)
  23. Louisville (4-0)
  24. Michigan (6-0)
  25. Saint Louis (5-0)

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. 

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this past season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The United States shocked Canada and just won the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship by a score of 2-0 in Edmonton on Tuesday! Spencer Knight (soon to be a Florida Panther) made 34 saves for his 3rd shutout of the tournament, setting US WJC career and single-tournament records. It was the first shutout by the US in the semifinal round or championship game in history! It was only the 5th championship for the US, and 4 of those titles came by wins over Canada (2004, 2010, 2017, 2021). Team USA Trevor Zegras (soon to be an Anaheim Duck) was named the tournament MVP. 

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) has been delayed.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There will also be divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. This will be this season’s odd configuration:

NORTH (all Canadian)

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Vancouver Canucks

Winnipeg Jets

WEST

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Phoenix Coyotes

Colorado Avalanche

LA Kings

Minnesota Wild

San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

Las Vegas Golden Knights

CENTRAL

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Detroit Redwings

Florida Panthers

Nashville Predators

Tampa Bay Lightning

EAST

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

That announcement was made by the NHL on 12/23. On New Year’s Day, the Canadian government, citing “national interest grounds” gave its approval for the start of NHL training camps. It issued an exemption for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for NHL players and team staff to return to the country. The five provinces with NHL franchises, however, must give their approval for games between Canadian teams during the regular season, which is still scheduled to start 1/13/21. The 7 Canadian teams will play this season in a separate realigned division. Training camp for the American NHL teams began on 1/3/21. The NHLPA is still planning on allowing its players to return to the Olympics in 2022. The governors of the six New England states and New Jersey have extended a ban on interstate youth hockey through the end of January 2021. Boston Bruin captain, Zdeno Chara, 43, has agreed to a one-year $795,000 contract with the Washington Capitals for 2021. He is the oldest player in the NHL and tallest player at 6’9. He played 14 seasons for the Bruins. New Jersey Devil’s No.1 pick, Nico Hischier, will not participate in training camp, after injuring his leg training in Switzerland earlier this month. He was the No.1 pick in the 2017 Draft and signed a 7-year/$50.75 million contract in 2019 that begins this season. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, 38, said Monday that he is scheduled for open-heart surgery. He had announced 12/17/20 that he could not play this season because of a heart condition. He had signed a one year/$1.5 million contract with the Rangers, after his contract was bought out. Chicago Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach will be out 4-5 months, after wrist surgery from an injury at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. Ilya Kovalchuk is officially headed back to the KHL. The veteran signed a 2year deal with Avangard Omsk last Saturday, returning to the Russian league for the first time since 2017-2018.  He spent 5 years in the KHL starting in 2013-2014 and was one of the best players in that league at the time. At his hockey peak, Kovalchuk was one of the most dominant goal scorers in the NHL, scoring at least 40 goals six different times in his career and 50 goals twice. Stanley Cup Champion Lightning will be without their All-Star, Nikita Kucherov, for the entire regular season, after hip surgery. NBC Sports announced that NBC and NBCSN will begin broadcasting NHL games on 1/13 and feature roughly 100 games of the 31 NHL teams during the regular season. 

NBA:

Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. Some stadiums are forced to deal with 10% of capacity attendance. Celtics’ TD Garden allowed ZERO fans at games. The Hornets also followed suit with NO fans. Cavs can have 300 fans at games. Rockets will have reduced capacity of fans. Pelicans will have 4% capacity of fans.  Raptors will have 3,200 fans maximum. Magic will have 4,000 fans maximum.  Jazz will have only a few thousand fans. Other teams with NO fans to start the season: Bulls, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Thunder, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards.  We are into Week 2 of the NBA 2020-2021 season now. Stephen Curry and Tobias Harris were named NBA Players of the Week. Stephen just put up a 62-point effort!  Spencer Dinwiddie has had successful ACL surgery.  Mavs star Luka Doncic has been sidelined with contusion of quadriceps. Chris Paul is quickly making his presence known on the West-leading Suns (I remember how they were the worst team for a decade). HOF Paul Westphal (noted Celtic) has died at the age of 70. Still Houston star, James Harden, not traded, was scratched from a game against the Kings because of a sprained ankle. Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson was fined $25,000 for making contact with an official. Carmelo Anthony has now passed Tim Duncan for 14th on all-time list of career scoring, averaging 23.5 points per game in more than 1,100 career games. Sacramento Kings seem happy about their No.12 draft pick, Tyrese Haliburton.   

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed from 5/2/20. It was run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. The Preakness Stakes was moved from 5/16/20 to 10/3/20. The Belmont Stakes was shifted from 6/6 to 6/20. So, the 3rdleg of the Triple Crown became the 1st leg, the 1st leg became the 2nd leg, and the 2nd leg became the 3rd leg. It was awfully confusing and all the races were held without fans. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Authentic beat him in the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness was won in an upset by a filly, Swiss Skydiver. Global superstar Goldikova has died at age 16. She was one of the world’s top racehorses of any sex or surface in the past 15 years. She was dominant in her 5 seasons on the track, winning 17 of 27 starts for $7,176,551. Details have emerged from attempted murder charge against jockey CJ McMahon. NY Governor Cuomo is pushing for mobile sports betting. Mucho Gusto has been retired with a soft-tissue injury. Racing has begun in Australia. 

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic: 

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski

5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick

6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr. 

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin

6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney

6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick

6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon

7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race-winner Denny Hamlin

8/2 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, added-winner Brad Keselowski

8/8 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-added-winner Kevin Harvick

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400, as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick 

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled-winner Chase Elliott

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled-winner William Bryon

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500-winner Kevin Harvick

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400-Brad Keselowski

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race-Kevin Harvick

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400-Kurt Busch

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500-Denny Hamlin

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400-Chase Elliott

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400-Joey Logano

10/25 Texas, Texas 500-Kyle Busch

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race-Chase Elliott

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

A bizarre Martin Truex Jr. retirement rumor has emerged. Jeremy Mayfield’s NASCAR career changed forever after he test positive. NASCAR season begins in Daytona on 2/14, 38 days from now. 

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel.  There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:

7/5/20       Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas

7/12/20     Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton

7/19/20     Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/2/20       British GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/9/20       70th Anniversary GP-Verstappen

8/15/20     Spanish GP-L.Hamilton

8/30/20     Belgian GP-L.Hamilton

9/6/20       Italian GP-Gasly

9/13/20     Tuscan GP-L.Hamilton

9/27/20     Russian GP-L.Hamilton

10/25/20   Portugal GP-L.Hamilton

11/1/20     Italy GP-L.Hamilton

11/15/20   Turkey GP

11/29/20   Abu Dhabi GP

Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  He is to be awarded a knighthood. F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. 

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED

7/4    GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon

7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist

7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud

7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden

8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24-Takuma Soto

8/29 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 1-inserted-Scott Dixon

8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 2-originally scheduled for 8/23-Josef Newgarden

9/12 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 1-inserted-Will Power

9/13 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 2-inserted-Colton Herta

9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week 

9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled-Josef Newgarden

10/2 IndyCar Harvest GP 1 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Josef Newgarden

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP 2 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Will Power

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race-Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

3-time Indianapolis 500 and two INDYCAR championships winning team owner, U.E. “Pat” Patrick, has died at age 91. INDYCAR Race winner and Indianapolis 500 veteran, John Paul Jr., has died at age 60. The St. Petersburg Firestone Grand Prix has shifted to April 25. 

Travel News:

Mexican pilots have rejected a cost-saving plan put forward by their own trade union amid talks on how to restructure airline Grupo Aeromexico. The airline has wound up in discussions with two labor unions, but remains in talks with two more on Tuesday. This update was apparently a requirement for the airline to receive a second tranche of bankruptcy funding. For those of you readers old enough, you know what a tranche is. For those too young, it’s at the front of an elephant. Sorry. Now, get off of my lawn! Of course, I’m kidding. Airbus is expected to lose over $5 billion in orders under AirAsia X’s proposed restructuring, as court documents show. They are joining a dozen creditors that have challenged the Malaysian low-budget carrier’s bankruptcy plan. I see a theme here… The official overseeing Norwegian Air’s bankruptcy protection plan from its creditors in Ireland will present a report to the Irish High Court on 1/22. Norwegian Air’s shareholders are backing the restructuring plan. Struggling South African Airways said on Wednesday (today) that they have issued a 48-hour notice to prevent nearly 400 pilots from accessing the company’s premises (lockout), until they agree to a new contract. MGM is being urged by some shareholders to sell 20% of its China business. 

Health News:  

As of this evening (1/05), globally, more than 1,877,852 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 86.9 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 21.2 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 359,977. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (197,732), India (150,114), Mexico (128,822), and UK (77,470). COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe. Remember, Dr. Fauci was ridiculed when he predicted 150,000-250,000 deaths in the US from COVID-19, near the beginning of the pandemic. We are now at almost 360,000.

In the US, three States have the worst COVID-19 infection rates of anywhere in the world.  Arizona currently has the highest per-capita rate of new COVID-19 infections, with 785 cases per 100,000 population over the last 7 days, followed closely by California (658) and Rhode Island (671), according to NBC News. The COUNTRY with the highest per-capita infection rate is the Czech Republic, at 653 cases per 100,000 over the past 7 days. The trend is also countrywide, as the US has reported an average of 451 new cases per 100,000 per day over the past 7 days, putting it as the 10th highest countrywide rate in the world (and that includes tiny countries ahead of the US like San Marino and Lichtenstein, which need only a few people to have a high rate.). Hospitals in California have been overwhelmed, as the state is experiencing record numbers of daily deaths and hospitalizations. Case numbers in Los Angeles County alone have increased 905% since 11/1/20. 10 people there are getting sick with COVID-19 every minute. South America has hit a new high for COVID-19 hospitalizations rate and case numbers. 

In the US, there is an email address to send your information to, in order to receive information on when you will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I sent that in on Monday. On Tuesday, I got a rash of grief from some Pharmacology major on why I’m just playing into big-Pharma’s hands and yet another conspiracy theory about the new strain of COVID-19 that showed up in California. I believe, but I have not done the calculations yet, that conspiracy theories about the virus and the election have multiplied at a much faster rate than the price of Bitcoin in 2020, but I’m not sure yet! I think I could write a whole other Repo Commentary based on Conspiracy Theories. January is normally the boomtime for gyms, as people join to strive to complete New Year’s resolutions, and then start dropping off on attendance in February and March. This year, however, thanks to the pandemic, combined with an explosion in fitness tech (like the $3500 Mirror, Peloton bikes, and Zoom fitness classes), people have found other ways to exercise and may not return to the gym soon. Although I work out frequently, I have not been to the gym since the beginning of March. I didn’t think the precautions they were taking were sufficient and froze my membership. Frankly, I always thought that gyms were a breeding petri dish for the common cold, flu, and other viruses for years, especially with the unclean habits of many members. I miss the better workout than I can get in my apartment or my building, but still won’t take the risk, until I have been vaccinated. Peloton’s annual revenues hit $1.8 billion in the 12 months ending June 2020, double its revenues from the year before. 

CureVac has struck a COVID-19 vaccine alliance deal with Bayr-Bild. 

Animal News:

Siberia’s enormous hole in the ground is growing, due to the way permafrost interacts with the warming environment.  I have now become one of millions of people who has sent in their AncestryDNA information and saliva, not only to find out my roots, but to also appear on some future Dateline or 20/20.  He wasn’t in Codex, but we found his DNA in Ancestry. This is important: I told you in the last Repo Commentary that new Department of Transportation regulations had redefined what a ‘support animal’ was for travel on airplanes to just dogs (not cats, snakes, lizards, pigs, ponies, peacocks, etc.). American Airlines has decided, on Wednesday, to go further when the new DOT rules go into effect on 1/11/21, and will no longer allow ANY ‘emotional support animals’ to fly, including dogs. They are reverting back to only allowing ‘service animals’ as defined as a DOG “trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.” This is despite that, in many cases, emotional support animals are prescribed by mental health professionals to provide comfort and support. However, unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not required to have training in specific tasks. Animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals may travel as carry-on or cargo pets. My feeling is that the people who had no need for an emotional support animal and fraudulently flaunted or bent the rules (I know several) to get their pet on planes or in restaurants, have just made it bad for people who DO need emotional support animals (for instance, PTSD sufferers). As someone old in my family once said, “that just rots my socks.”  Did you know that feral hogs cause more than $1.5 billion in damage each year. Here in West Palm Beach, across from the airport, Palm Beach Kennel Club, after 88 years of running, closed on New Year’s Eve, after decades of featuring greyhound dog racing and becoming the dog-racing “mecca” of Florida, OTB-type horse racing, and recently poker rooms.  The greyhound racing was finally voted by Amendment 13 25 months ago. On Sunday, Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Florida, the next-to-last track, closed. The demise of US greyhound racing, which has been around for over 100 years, is within sight. In the late 1980s, there were more than 60 dog tracks in operation in the US (in at least 12 states). There are now only 4 tracks running in 3 states (West Virginia, Arkansas, and Iowa). Earlier this year, dog tracks in Texas and Alabama closed. When the Amendment 13 passed in 2018, Florida had 11 of America’s 17 dog tracks. Some pet foods have been recalled after reports of 28 dog deaths, according to the FDA. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree owl was captured and released back into the wild. More than 300 shark and ray species are threatened by extinction, according to a new report. A prehistoric ‘swamp king’ crocodile of Australia was over 16-feet-long, according to a new study. I’m still watching this video of a Florida pelican who swallowed an alligator whole! 

Entertainment News:

JAMES BOND: A VIEW TO A KILL girl and Charlie’s Angels actress, Tanya Roberts, has died at age 65. She appeared opposite Sir Roger Moore in his final BOND film. Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters singing act died at age 89 on 12/29. Gilligan’s Island star who played Marianne on the show, Dawn Wells, died on 12/30 due to COVID complications, at age 82. The high school principal, Joe Clark, who served as the inspiration for Morgan Freeman’s 1989 film LEAN ON ME, died on 12/29 at the age of 82. HOF baseball pitcher, reknowned for his knuckleball, Phil Niekro, died at age 81 on 12/26 of cancer. Bluegrass guitarist, Tony Rice, died on 12/25 at age 69.  Tony-nominated Broadway actress, Rebecca Luker, died at age 59 on 12/23. Jeremy Bulloch, who famously portrayed Boba Fett in the original STAR WARS trilogy, died at age 75 on 12/17. During the pandemic lockdown, music listening or streaming has skyrocketed, with more than 155 million albums purchased or streamed in 2020, in just England, according to record label body BPI. This was an increase of 8.2% over the previous year. However, for the first time since records began in 1973, not a single album released in the last 12 months was certified platinum (representing 300,000 in sales). Only 16 singles songs received a platinum disc (representing 600,000 in sales).  In total, fans played 139 billion songs on services like Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music last year, up more than 22%. This has certainly come to the rescue of an industry crippled by the piracy crisis of 10 years ago, but there are still questions among artists on how the money from streaming services is distributed. In an odd twist, outside of streaming, vinyl continued to grow in popularity, with sales hitting 4.8 million, up from 4.3 million in 2019, making it the format’s best year since 1990. Also, sales of cassette tapes almost doubled to 156,542 sold, the highest total since 2003. CD sales continued to fall though, with only half the amount sold in 2020 as were sold in 2018.  At their peak in the UK, 163.4 million CDs were sold in 2004, and only 16 million in 2020. All of these are just British figures, not global figures, but the trend is similar.  So, I’ve now binge watched all of The Mandalorian on Disney+, as well as all of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians Driving Cars Getting Coffee (I had no idea that this show has been around for like 11 years!). I have done a pretty good job binge-watching all the good shows on Netflix too, including Bloodline, Ozark, Away, The Crown, Queen’s Gambit, Fear City: New York VS The Mafia, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Tiger King, Unbelievable, etc. Apparently, I have only scratched the surface, as Rotten Tomatoes lists 19 more series with higher rating than Unbelievable’s 98%!  And that’s looking at their 177 highest-rated Netflix series. I’m such a silly, uninformed person, as I thought I would look over at their Amazon-Prime highest rated series and there was a mere 58 more there. Sooo, apparently, I have barely watched the tip of the iceberg. The Office reunion is now looking more likely. Kristin Cavallari is feeling like her “old self” after turning 34. Something about that just annoys me. Bethenny Frankel and ex Paul Bernon just had a cozy reunion, after 3-month split. Dr. Dre has given his health update, after suffering a brain aneurysm. Meanwhile, 4 suspects have been arrested after an attempted burglary of his house while he was hospitalized. Christie Brinkley has undergone hip replacement surgery, 26 years after being injured in a helicopter crash. Not due to that ab machine she and Chuck Norris have been plugging. Okay, the scandal is all over now. Hilaria, Alec Baldwin’s wife is NOT Hispanic. She was born in the Boston area and grew up mostly in Connecticut. It was her press agent that screwed up her bio. Peacock is rebooting Punky Brewster. I know, why? Bridgerton’s Rege-Jean Page is seen as a possible JAMES BOND replacement. Kim Kardashian says that she’s getting her ”mind and body right” during Kanye West divorce speculation. Anne Burrell has a new cookware line. Ken Jennings, the all-time champion of Jeopardy! May replace Alex Trebek as the new host of the popular game show. I actually watched the last 5 episodes of the show to see Alex. He worked up until 10 days before his death. Gwen Stefani admits that she was confused why Blake Shelton took so long to propose to her.

Technology & Space News:

Amazon has been operating cargo planes and cargo vans for a long time.  But, in the past, those planes have been leased and the vans were leased. You know, if you’ve been reading this Repo Commentary, that the vans are now going to be purchased and be electric. Now, Amazon has purchased 11 jets from Delta Airlines and WestJet Airlines, which marks the beginnings of Amazon Air fleet that is expected to top 85 planes by the end of 2021. “Up in the air, junior birdman…” There isn’t a single reader out there old enough to get that reference.  

US News:

President Trump has still not conceded the 11/3 Presidential Election. Kenosha police officers will not face charges in the Jacob Blake shooting. In the US, kindergarten enrollment has declined. Delaying the start of kindergarten has been a thing since I was a kid (right before the turn of the 19th to 20th Century), as parents have opted to give their children extra time to prepare mentally and physically for school. However, this pandemic has sparked a sharp decrease in kindergarten enrollment in public schools. Many parents are simply ‘red-shirting’ their kids, like in college athletics. The silver lining is that this could lead to less college admissions competition. The Georgia Senate two runoffs may have yielded a small victory for the Democrats in the first runoff, which could lead to a narrow control of the Senate, to go along with their control of the House, and there apparent control of the Oval Office. The longer I take to write this Commentary, as always, the more important news that shows up that I need to report. So, now, as of Wednesday afternoon, it appears that the Democrats will win the second runoff as well in Georgia. However, the new headline news is that some 40,000 protesters stormed the US Capitol this afternoon, perhaps from some urging on by President Trump that he would join them (metaphorically), and actually broke through Capitol Police lines and the barriers and smashed the Capitol windows and stormed into the offices and gallery, forcing Senators to scramble to safety and Capitol Police to hold the protesters off with deadly force. One woman protester shot by Capitol Police died Wednesday night. This kind of scene hasn’t happened since the 1800s and is certainly a disgrace for America in front of other countries of the world. Reportedly, the people inside one section of the capitol were recounting the Electoral College votes for the Presidency. No matter which side anyone voted on, enough is enough. The future of Democracy in the country is now at stake, and even Vice President Pence said that he will take the side of the US Constitution. He openly defied his President Trump and said that Trump can’t reject electoral votes. This has been far from a peaceful turnover of power, and actually quite the opposite. The division in the country between different groups hasn’t been higher since the American Civil War. It did not help things that the police officers involved in shooting a black man 7 times in the back wound up not getting charged with any crimes on Tuesday. Basically, there is now dissatisfaction with the government and the police on many fronts. Sorry, this is going to seem scattered, but I’m trying to update it, as the news unfolds. President Trump’s Twitter account, on which he was able to reach at least 73 million Americans, has been locked, keeping him from entering any Tweets for 12 hours, until he removes an offensive video. 

Bankruptcy:

Business and personal bankruptcy filings fell to 529,068 in 2020, the lowest level since 1986, and a sharp drop from recent years’ total of nearly 800,000. The 2020 numbers, which also exclude Chapter 11 filings, are thought to be lower because of last year’s many pandemic relief programs. Before everyone jumps for joy, however, Reuters says that Chapter 11 filings, used typically for larger businesses and large individuals, still soared 29% in 2020, to 7,128, compared to 5,158 in 2019 (and 2019 included JC Penney and other brick and mortar stores closing due to an economic downturn.) Also, Epiq AACER SVP Kruse said in a press release that he expects household and other non-commercial bankruptcy filings “to grow substantially in the second half of 2021.” His feeling is that many government programs will end and many debts from the last few months will come due. Plus, many people wracked up future obligations by delaying rent and mortgage payments. Congress and the President DID finally agree on a further $900 billion second pandemic aid package, which included many areas, and $600 per citizen in the US.  Some people have already started receiving those checks or direct deposits. A $2000 stimulus check is supposedly still a possibility for citizens. I was hoping that this section of the Repo Commentary would never reappear, but wishes are for… I don’t remember the rest of it. China, apparently, has turned around more than 2,000 loss-making “zombie” and heavily indebted companies (without shooting them in the head or severing their heads) in its campaign against poorly performing enterprises, according to its regulator on Tuesday. Italy is considering taking on some $17 billion of UniCredit bad loans to ease MPS sale.

International News:

Singapore police tapped into data from a COVID-19 contact tracing app.  This was the very thing that many people feared. Ahhhh, 1984.  According to the World Economic Forum, data shows that in the 19th Century (don’t start!), people across the world used to work extremely long hours, but in the last 150 years (including the Industrial Revolution), working hours have decreased substantially, particularly in the richest countries. For the richest (or early-industrialized economies) over the last 150 years, hours worked annually dropped from about 3,000 (60-70 hours per week) to about 1,300-1,500 hours annually (or about 30-35 hours per week). Iran is ratcheting up aggression ahead of Biden inauguration. The US has sent more military personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the rhetoric that we are bringing soldiers out. Homicides in South America spiked in 2020, the second deadliest year in 25 years. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un said he would expand military capabilities to better defend the country, this morning. This was during  a rare party congress and despite international sanctions and pressure. Lovely.  Philippine students have been doing a lot of climbing on mountains and corrugated iron roofs, in order to get Internet signals to take online classes. Well, I used to have to walk to school both ways, uphill, ah never mind. Saudi Arabia is intent on moving quicker than its allies to reconcile with Qatar, aiming to impress the new US Presidential administration by ending what the West has seen as a parochial dispute that only benefits Iran. 

Florida:

For the first time since 3/15/20, nearly the start of the pandemic, I successfully sang my first singing gig at Zuccarellis Ristorante in West Palm Beach 12/18 6:30-10:00pm. I did half Elvis and half Christmas songs in a 2-hour gig that became 3 ½-hours. I’ve been asked to return monthly and perform there. 

Jokes and Such:

If you all keep sending me dirty jokes that I can’t publish in the Repo Commentary, I’m going to have to remove this section.  Again. 

Repo Commentary-12/16/20

It is Day 280 (on 12/16) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, that depends on which conspiracy theories to which you ascribe.

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. For many, unemployment benefits could end soon.

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (12/03), I wrote about my latest project. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training and education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here:  www.pierpoint-securities-finance.teachable.com and click on my course. It has now been uploaded and is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation.  I suspect many companies will subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

So, I am far from retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (12/16):

  • Barbie and Barney Backlash Day
  • Boston Tea Party Day
  • Day of Reconciliation (South Africa)
  • National Chocolate Covered Anything Day
  • Stupid Toy Day
  • National Day (Bahrain)
  • National Sports Day (Thailand)
  • Victory Day (Bangladesh)
  • Victory Day (India)

Some Famous People Born on (12/16):

  • 1485-Catherine of Aragon, Spanish princess, later queen consort of England
  • 1534-Hans Bol, Flemish artist
  • 1770-Ludwig van Beethoven, composer
  • 1775-Jane Austen, English novelist
  • 1899-Noel Coward, English actor, playwright, and composer
  • 1901-Margaret Mead, American anthropologist and author
  • 1917-Arthur C. Clarke, British science fiction writer
  • 1928-Terry Carter, American actor, director, and producer
  • 1938-Liv Ullmann, Norwegian actress, director and screenwriter
  • 1941-Lesley Stahl, American journalist and actress
  • 1962-William ‘the fridge’ Perry, American football player and wrestler
  • 1963-Benjamin Bratt, American actor and producer
  • 1964-Billy Ripken, American baseball player and sportscaster

Daily Weird Facts:

 In an effort to preserve the language, STAR WARS is being dubbed in Navajo.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Sex? Unfortunately, as you get older – and I shouldn’t admit this – there are other things that become more important in your daily life.” Alex Trebek

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23 

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has risen 20 cents higher, at $2.09/gallon. 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24 

108.60 on 01/07 

109.07 on 01/16 

103.18 on 02/03 

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

100.05 on 07/27/20 

105.26 on 11/10/20

104.38 on 11/30/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426 

01/07 at $1.1478 

01/16 at $1.1396 

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

07/27 at $1.2314

11/10 at $1.1821

11/30 at $1.1925

12/16 at $1.2196

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655 

01/07 at $1.2770 

01/16 at $1.2880 

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

07/27 at $1.3458

11/10 at $1.3255

11/30 at $1.3319 

12/16 at $1.3494

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24 

1.3297 on 01/07 

1.3255 on 01/16 

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

1.2730 on 07/27

1.3014 on 11/10

1.3000 on 11/30 

1.2752 on 12/16

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it was trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs. It has continued to back off those highs, closed on 11/30/20 at 1,774.00. However, here on 12/16/20, gold is back up to $1,858.20.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25 

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  But, Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. After sneaking up now again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through to a new record, where it is now. Visa has entered into a partnership with BlockFi to offer a credit card through Evolve Bank & Trust, where consumers can accumulate rewards in Bitcoin, rather than in air miles or cash. This follows an earlier agreement between Visa and Fold to roll out a debit card offering bitcoin-denominated spending rewards. The CBOE Global Markets will bring its cryptocurrency indexes to the Options market in the second half of 2021. Initially, the exchange will focus on 10 or less trading pairs from among the cryptocurrencies with the highest market capitalizations. 

Brexit:

I didn’t expect this section to reappear in the Repo Commentary, but there is news specifically about Brexit.  Europe’s largest truck owner has warned that it could turn away deliveries to the UK, if Brexit will trigger chaos at the border, which in turn would threaten the supply of fresh produce to Great Britain. Reportedly, it could lead to 30 mile-long lines of idling trucks, according to Bloomberg. 

Global Financial News:

Warren Buffett wants more money for small businesses hit by COVID-19. Meanwhile, in a survey by the US Chamber of Commerce and MetLife, nearly two-thirds of small businesses say they have not yet felt the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some 74% of small business owners want the federal government to offer more financial support. Regulator, Massachusetts Securities Division, is saying that online broker, Robinhood, is not meeting its fiduciary standard for acting in its clients’ best interests and has exposed them to “unnecessary trading risks,” according to the WSJ. Brett Redfearn will step down as Director of the SEC’s trading and markets division at the end of this month, ending his 3-year term. Congress has approved a bill that would double the amount of time to 10 years for the SEC to recover profit obtained through fraud. The provision is buried in a $732 billion Defense authorization bill. The DOJ and FBI have launched a probe into possible fraud and violations of anti-money-laundering regulations at Scandinavian banks SEB, Swedbank, and Danske Bank, according to Swedish media reports and Reuters. Fintech venture, Vestrata, is launched an offer to private banks and wealth managers an integrated platform that focuses on quality service, rather than volume, to increase revenue. High-frequency traders are experimenting with a cable that accelerates data transmission called a hollow-core fiber cable.  It relies on the fact that light travels faster through air than through glass. Vanguard has joined other leading money managers in promoting racial diversity at the Board level by promising to press firms to divulge intentions and strategies and by voting against company directors at annual meetings if they appear to be making insufficient efforts. NYC received $985 million in extra revenue from July 2020 to October 2020, due to the performance by Wall Street banks. Unlike the Global Recession of 2008, the financial-services sector has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. 

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

01/07/19 at 2,549.69 

01/16/19 at 2,616.10 

02/06/19 at 2,706.53 

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56 

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

07/24/20 at 3,215.63

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

12/01/20 at 3,662.45

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, but has backed a little off of that since.  

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,595.06. Nasdaq closed on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50 

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22 

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

12/01/20 at 12,355.11 

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

The US Treasury curve was about as flat as it gets and yields were at historic lows in July 2020. But, ever since, the curve has steepened dramatically!  2year yields have dropped to record lows. 3year yields have dropped to near record lows. 5year yields have inched lower. But, 7year, 10year, and 30year yields are stuck higher.  30year yields have nearly doubled since July. And, the yields on all 3 later maturities have reached yields seen pre-COVID pandemic.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20% 

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

11/09/20 at 0.17%

12/01/20 at 0.17%

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.44%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

12/15/20 at 0.37%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.68%

12/15/20 at 0.64%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.92%

12/15/20 at 0.92%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 1.66%

12/15/20 at 1.65%

Housing News:

Well, shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plunged Tuesday on the announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he’s all but ruled out letting them exit US control before he steps down, and become privatized. His decision actually prevents a major policy change that could have risked disrupting the $10 trillion mortgage market. US lenders are pressing lawmakers to extend an accounting waiver that helps them offer more forbearance measure to their customers beyond the 12/31 deadline. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

My friend, Scott Skyrm, points out that the danger in monetary policy in the US of ZIRP is that the target federal funds rate or repo rates could go NEGATIVE. Now, of course, we are chatting about General Collateral Repo rates, not Specials rates, which have many times traded at negative rates. Specials are specific CUSIPS in certain types of securities that have a completely different risk dynamic and supply/demand characteristics, both from the Primary and Secondary outright markets, along with the Repo Market and Securities Lending market. You can tell, I just wrote a Lesson all about this. Anyway, back in July 2013, as Scott points out, GC Repo Rates (US Treasuries) hit .05%, very close to ZERO, and the Fed began its RRP Program (very similar to my former Direct Repo product, disintermediating the primary dealers and going to their main cash providers). There are a number of reasons why Negative rates would not be good in the US or at least would be very disruptive.  As Scott points out, the Fed has a couple of options to head this off at the pass:

  • Interest on Excess Reserves-the Fed could raise the IOER rate, which would incent banks to move reserves to the Fed and away from Repo, potentially raising repo rates.
  • RRP-the Fed has the ability to raise the Repo rate on this program, even above market repo rates, incenting those cash providers to put their cash with the Fed, rather than other collateral providers, potentially raising repo rates. 

Well, we will find, out what the Fed intends to do today, after the second day of the current FOMC meeting.

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.  

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them. 
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets. 
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER. 
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019. 
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies. 
  • Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual)

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. 
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before.  
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 
  • RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15.  I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one. 
  • SIFMA annual meeting.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance will be held virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is holding a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). It has actually been trading closer to 0.035% lately. The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.  

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are facing now.  For 2021, the Fed announced FOMC meetings for: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

At the 11/05/20 FOMC meeting, the Fed kept interest rate target near 0% and said the economy is still well below pre-pandemic levels, despite certain markets moving to pre-pandemic levels or even record levels. As I said in the last Repo Commentary, with a change in Administration, a political fight is brewing, according to the NY Times, over whether to extend critical programs that the Federal Reserve implemented in March and April, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those programs are set to expire on 12/31/20. It is unclear whether President Trump’s administration, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, or Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, have decided if they will continue the programs.

In today’s FOMC statement, we look for what the Fed will adjust to keep GC Repo rates from going negative, which could lead to other problems. We also will see what they intend to do about large-scale buying of US Treasuries (continuing QE 4 or 5, whoever is counting), what the economic outlook is, and if there is a plan for any other emergency lending facilities. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are the latest significant earthquakes over the last couple of weeks.  It’s been pretty quiet:

4.4 12/14 SSE of Waimea, Hawaii

6.1 12/10 E of Yilan, Taiwan

6.1 12/06 E of Iquique, Chile

3.6 12/06 SSW of Warner Springs, CA

4.4 12/06 W of Lakeport, CA

3.6 12/05 WSW of Aguanga, CA

6.4 12/01 ESE of Nikolski, AK

Weather:

West Palm Beach suffered a two-day cold spell that brought temps fortunately down to the 50s. But, that has given way to hot and humid, near record, 80s. Up North, things are a little different. A major winter storm has raced across the Midwest and is now eyeing the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and expected to bring a great deal of snow to the area and snarl travel. It will be wet snow, so authorities expect many downed lines and power outages. Further South, in NC and VA, freezing rain and ice are a concern. Japan just had a record snowfall. Many records have been broken, including Fujiwara, which saw 176cm of snow in just 48 hours.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ended November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

It turns out that they were both wrong, and it has become the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There have now been 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates that have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ended 11/1/20. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud were had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  I think that’s a good idea. Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is back in baseball, now in Australia. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2020 season came to a screeching halt in the middle of a tournament in March. The Masters tournament was postponed from April to this past weekend in November. So, the PGA Championship and US Open have already been played. The British Open, to round out the Grand Slam events, was actually cancelled until 2021. The 2020 national championship had to be held in December, this past chilly weekend in Houston, The US Women’s Open, and it was an inspiring tournament, particularly by runner-up Amy Olson, who persevered and led, despite the sad news on Saturday that her father-in-law had died. Lim Kim won the tournament at Champions Golf Club on Monday, with 3 birdies over her final 3 holes, beating Olson by one. Kim became the second non-LPGA member after Sophia Popov to win a major this year. For once, the LPGA did not have to compete for TV ratings with a scheduled PGA Tour event. This week, there is the odd PGA event, PNC Championship, which begins Saturday, and which pairs fathers with sons. Charlie Woods, 11, will play with his father, Tiger Woods. They will play the Langers, the Thomas’s, the Goosens, the Lehmans, the Loves, the Dalys, and others.

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players, other games have been postponed. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL. I hope the NFL realizes it and at least plays the playoff games in a bubble or two bubbles. 

As of now, in the 15th Week of the 2020 season, the undefeated Steelers (11-0) of two weeks ago, fell to the bad Washington Football Team and then were upended Monday night by the Bills and are now 11-2. Big Ben is looking suddenly old and they haven’t had a running game in six weeks. They have 3 games to fix things before the playoffs. The Chiefs (12-1) just seem to be getting better, maybe even better than the last year’s Super Bowl Champion team, finding ways to win difficult games, when superhuman Mahomes throws 3 interceptions and loses a fumble. The Packers (10-3) have methodically torn teams up with their offense and have the top seed in the NFC. The Bills (10-3) are the real deal in the AFC East and Josh Allen has become a star QB. Coming up right behind the Steelers are the Saints (10-3), but they have been shaky behind QB Taysom Hill and really need QB Drew Brees back. It’s hard to tell which Seahawks (9-4) are going to show up, the one that crushed the Jets or the one that lost to the Giants. The Colts and Rams are also still trying to prove themselves at (9-4). Then, there’s the Tom Brady-led Bucs and the Ravens, both at (8-5). The Browns (9-4), Titans (9-4), Dolphins (8-5), Cards (7-6), and Raiders (7-6) don’t seem to be quite ready for the playoffs yet. The Football Team, Bears, Patriots, and Vikings are still statistically alive for the playoffs. AFC East is led by the Bills, AFC North is led by the Steelers, AFC South is led by the Titans and Colts, and the AFC West is led by the Chiefs. The NFC East is led by the Football Team, the NFC North is led by the Packers, the NFC South is led by the Saints, and the NFC West is led by the Rams and Seahawks. So far, the 0-13 Jets have been eliminated from the Playoffs. The Steelers and Saints have clinched Playoff berths. The Chiefs and Packers each clinched their Division. 

Tennis

The 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 was cancelled for 2020. The NY Post reports that 39-year-old Roger Federer’s tennis future is in doubt after his shocking speech at the Switzerland Sport Awards, after an alarming admission that his body may deny him his return in 2021. He was pushing for a final run at Wimbledon and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but says he may have already played his last match. He most recently has been suffering from an ongoing knee injury. He was named Switzerland’s greatest athlete of the past 70 years. The Australian Open is likely to be postponed by “one or two weeks” due to COVID-19 pandemic. ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev says that the Australian Open could be “really dangerous” for tennis players. Novak Djokovic reached the semis of the ATP Finals. Medvedev, who stunned No.1 Djokovic in the semis, came from behind to beat Dominic Thiem in the Finals. Thiem had beaten Rafael Nadal.

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. 

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945. 

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

Various college conferences have either said they will only play teams within their conferences in 2020 or have said they won’t play at all. There was a delayed start to the 2020 season, with some conferences delaying their starts by weeks. Some stadiums have had a small number of fans and others have had no fans. Needless to say, homefield advantage has been mostly eliminated, because of the lack of fans. No.6 Florida should have beaten rival LSU, but then, bizarrely, a Gator defensive player ripped a shoe off the Tiger player and threw it 20 yards down the field, which led to a penalty and a 57-yard game-winning field goal for LSU. Gators actually had a chance to tie it in last 30 seconds, but missed their field goal attempt.  That player may never play football again, at the college or NFL level. What a stupid thing to do!!!  Shilo Sanders has transferred from South Carolina to Jackson State, to play for his father, NFL great Deion Sanders. The woman kicker, Sarah Fuller, for Vanderbilt had her college football career end unceremoniously, when the Vanderbilt-Georgia game was cancelled this weekend due to COVID-19. Ohio State actually needed to play a minimum of six games to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game, let alone the BCS. They managed to play 5 games, but they got an exemption to play Northwestern for the Big 10 championship this weekend. Ironically, that’s the same Northwestern team that just a few years ago was setting the winless consecutive record. Here are is the next to last (penultimate) College Football Playoff Rankings as of 12/15.  The top 5 teams held steady and Iowa State moved up to No.6 to take Florida’s place, as the College Football Playoff committee faces choosing the Final 4, after this week’s conference championship games:

1.          Alabama (10-0)

2.          Notre Dame (10-0)

3.          Clemson (9-1)

4.          Ohio State (5-0)

5.          Texas A&M (7-1)

6.          Iowa State (8-2)

7.          Florida (8-2)

8.          Georgia (7-2)

9.          Cincinnati (8-0)

10.        Oklahoma (7-2)

11.        Indiana (6-1)

12.        Coastal Carolina (11-0)

13.        USC (5-0)

14.        Northwestern (6-1)

15.        North Carolina (8-3)

16.        Iowa (6-2)

17.        BYU (10-1)

18.        Miami (8-2)

19.        Louisiana (9-1)

20.        Texas (6-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (7-3)

22.        NC State (8-3)

23.        Tulsa (6-1)

24.        San Jose State (6-0)

25.        Colorado (4-1)

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season in 2019-2020, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell was ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19. The NCAA approved college hockey’s move to 3-on-3 overtime across all levels. 

In 2020-2021 NCAA Hockey, Minnesota is now No.1, BC is No.2, Minnesota-Duluth is No.3, North Dakota is No.4, and Minnesota State is now No.5. Six-ten spots are: Michigan, Clarkson, Denver, St. Cloud State, and UMass.

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments in early 2020, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

The 2020-2021 season began in November. We are deep into it now, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  My Michigan State (after beating Notre Dame and Duke), as well as the rest of the Big 10, have been particularly strong at the start.  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 12/16/20:

  1.  Gonzaga (3-0) have had to suspend activities due to COVID-19
  2.  Baylor (4-0) crushed Illinois, but suspended activities due to COVID-19
  3.  Iowa (6-0) crushed UNC and Iowa State
  4.  Kansas (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  5.  Michigan State (6-0)
  6.  Tennessee (3-0)
  7.  Villanova (5-1)
  8.  West Virginia (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  9.  Virginia (3-1) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  10. Houston (4-0) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  11. Texas (5-1) beat UNC and Indiana
  12. Texas Tech (6-1)
  13. Wisconsin (5-1)
  14. Ohio State (5-0)
  15. Missouri (5-0)
  16. Creighton (4-2)
  17. Illinois (5-2)
  18. Rutgers (5-0)
  19. Duke (2-2)
  20. UNC (4-2)
  21. San Diego State (5-0)
  22. FSU (4-0)
  23. Louisville (4-0)
  24. Michigan (6-0)
  25. Saint Louis (5-0)

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. 

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins due to the curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The US Hockey League has been managing its 2020-2021 schedule that started in November, although with some game postponements, without using a bubble or any league-wide breaks so far. They have relied on detailed planning and flexibility. The NHL plans to begin the new season in mid-January.  The Penguins have decided to play in their own building and travel only for Division games. The NHL is considering having just 4 NHL divisions to align teams for less travelling.  

NBA:

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo has signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for 5years/$228 million. James Harden trade rumors continue to dominate the NBA preseason. However, he is contractually obligated to play for the Rockets. That’s going to be awkward. Payton Pritchard looks good in his Celtics debut. 

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed from 5/2/20. It was run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. The Preakness Stakes was moved from 5/16/20 to 10/3/20. The Belmont Stakes was shifted from 6/6 to 6/20. So, the 3rdleg of the Triple Crown became the 1st leg, the 1st leg became the 2nd leg, and the 2nd leg became the 3rd leg. It was awfully confusing and all the races were held without fans. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Authentic beat him in the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness was won in an upset by a filly, Swiss Skydiver. 

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic: 

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski

5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick

6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr. 

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin

6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney

6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick

6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon

7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race-winner Denny Hamlin

8/2 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, added-winner Brad Keselowski

8/8 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-added-winner Kevin Harvick

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400, as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick 

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled-winner Chase Elliott

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled-winner William Bryon

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500-winner Kevin Harvick

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400-Brad Keselowski

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race-Kevin Harvick

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400-Kurt Busch

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500-Denny Hamlin

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400-Chase Elliott

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400-Joey Logano

10/25 Texas, Texas 500-Kyle Busch

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race-Chase Elliott

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel.  There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:

7/5/20       Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas

7/12/20     Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton

7/19/20     Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/2/20       British GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/9/20       70th Anniversary GP-Verstappen

8/15/20     Spanish GP-L.Hamilton

8/30/20     Belgian GP-L.Hamilton

9/6/20       Italian GP-Gasly

9/13/20     Tuscan GP-L.Hamilton

9/27/20     Russian GP-L.Hamilton

10/25/20   Portugal GP-L.Hamilton

11/1/20     Italy GP-L.Hamilton

11/15/20   Turkey GP

11/29/20   Abu Dhabi GP

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED

7/4    GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon

7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist

7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud

7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden

8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24-Takuma Soto

8/29 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 1-inserted-Scott Dixon

8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 2-originally scheduled for 8/23-Josef Newgarden

9/12 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 1-inserted-Will Power

9/13 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 2-inserted-Colton Herta

9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week 

9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled-Josef Newgarden

10/2 IndyCar Harvest GP 1 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Josef Newgarden

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP 2 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Will Power

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race-Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

Travel News:

The Legoland them park in Florida is planning expansion and new rides next year. The storied 21 Club in midtown Manhattan has closed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its owners are optimistic about reopening at some point. A Barcelona concert, with 500 fans at a live show without social distancing, is testing the effectiveness of same-day COVID-19 screening at the concert. Empty hotels in some states have become government homes for the homeless.  Two-thirds of England’s citizens have been told to avoid holiday gatherings and travel, due to COVID-19 flare-up. United Airlines will now ask all passengers for Contact-Tracing information, working with the CDC. Royal Caribbean has sold Empress and Majesty of the Seas to an undisclosed buyer in the Asia-Pacific region. Vaccine news have boosted international cruise bookings. Guyana is expanding visitor access with new flights and tours. US State Department is updating Saint Lucia Travel Advisory. Airlines have issued travel waivers ahead of this East Coast winter storm Gail. US, Canada, and Mexico land border restrictions have been extended. In a recent survey, half of US travelers plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine. MSC Cruises has confirmed its Winter 2021-2022 itineraries. Calls are growing louder for Aviation workers to be considered essential workers for vaccination priority. American Airlines has extended it change fee waiver policy into 2021. Pittsburgh International Airport will offer optional COVID-19 testing. Commercial airlines are being used to ship COVID-19 vaccines. Hilton Hotels has hit a milestone with 1 million hotel rooms. Palladium Hotel Group received numerous accolades in 2020. Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Cancun has pushed its grand opening to 2021. Disneyland has launched a COVID-19 health and safety awareness campaign. Disney has also unveiled new details for 2021 Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. The Travel Corporation is now offering travel protection program with COVID-19 coverage. Amtrak is adding new digital payment options. RV rentals look to thrive in 2021. 

Health News:  

As of this morning (12/16/20), globally, more than 1,640,867 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 73.6 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 16.7 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 304,589. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (182,799), India (144,096), Mexico (115,099), and UK (66,537). France and Italy, like the US, are reporting record cases, as COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe. Remember, Dr. Fauci was ridiculed when he predicted 150,000-250,000 deaths in the US from COVID-19, near the beginning of the pandemic. The CDC has reduced the recommended minimum quarantine time for people exposed to the virus. The old standard was 14 days; now, those without symptoms may end quarantine after 7 days with a negative test, or after 10 days without a negative test.  British authorities will hold talks on Christmas COVID-19 rules, after a surge in infections fueled demands from medical experts to stop households from socializing over the holiday. Denmark is extending local lockdowns to the entire country. Italy’s PM is mulling further curbs to slow cases during the season. Here in the US, California has stepped back a phase or two and NYC may get a second full lockdown. 

Kizzmekia Corbett is being praised as the key scientist behind the COVID-19 vaccine. BioNTech-Pfizer’s vaccine was approved by the FDA. Moderna’s vaccine has now also been deemed safe by US regulators, clearing the way for a second COVID-19 vaccine to quickly gain emergency authorization, possible from FDA by Friday. In Europe, agencies will review the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine earlier than planned amid growing pressure to approve it quickly. Meanwhile, China and Russia are reportedly already distributing their versions of vaccine to essential workers.

The 11/01-12/15 Affordable Health Care Act window, to obtain long-term health care insurance, just closed.  

Animal News:

The Federal Reserve has joined the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System, which focuses on mitigating risk from climate change. More than 300 shark and ray species are threatened with extinction, a new report finds. A Florida pelican was caught on video swallowing a whole alligator. As I reported last issue, emotional support animals (other than dogs) have now been grounded by new air travel rules. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree owl is being released into the wild. Four lions have tested positive for COVID-19 at a Spanish zoo. There is a wild video that shows a Florida man rescuing his small puppy from an alligator in a pond, prying open the gator’s mouth to release the dog. I don’t know if I could do that, probably. An iceberg the size of Delaware is on track to slam into South Atlantic island. A humpback whale was spotted in New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty. The “world’s loneliest elephant” has arrived at a sanctuary in Cambodia, thanks to help from Cher. A massive 9-pound goldfish was found in a South Carolina lake. A 20-year-old Oregon surfer vows to return to the sea, after a rare shark attack, off the shores of Seaside. His left leg was severely injured as the shark bit so hard he went through the board. He was surfing alone and was lucky that other surfers came to his rescue and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Oregon has only had 28 shark attacks since 1837. The Maui Pro surfing tournament in Hawaii has just been put on hold, due to a shark attacking a 56-year-old surfer there, on Tuesday, also biting through the board. The attack occurred near Honolua Bay in Hawaii. In contrast, Hawaii has recorded 171 shark attacks since 1837. Florida still is the leader, with 852 shark attacks since 1837.  Here is the Hawaii board:

Entertainment News:

The big news in entertainment is that music icon, Bob Dylan, has sold his entire songwriting catalog of more than 600 songs to Universal in a blockbuster deal for an amount estimated to be greater than $300 million! This is for a guy who can’t read music and signed his first record contract 58 years ago for $100. This is a recent trend of high-profile musicians cashing in on their music catalogs, both young and old. Last week, Stevie Nicks sold a majority stake in her songwriting catalog for an estimated $80 million to Primary Wave Music. Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British company that has had a rapid rise in just 2 ½ years, recently disclosed that it had spent about $670 million from March to September, acquiring rights to more than 44,000 songs by Blondie, Rick James, Barry Manilow, Chrissie Hynde, and others. Streaming has really helped lift the entire music market, as album/CD sales are down. Publishers in the US collected $3.7 billion in 2019, mostly from streaming. Disney made a shocking announcement at its shareholders’ meeting, detailing many new shows, a dozen new STAR WARS spinoffs, and several Marvel Comics movies. After almost 3 decades since its debut the MIGHTY DUCKS franchise will also be returning with a Disney+ TV series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.” Fans are remembering John Lennon, on the 40th anniversary of his death. Tina Turner says the steps to happiness are: “be kind, be grateful, and forgive.” Country music legend, Charley Pride, has died of COVID-19 complications, at age 86. There is some controversy surrounding this, as the CMA had him do a concert special only a couple of months ago, after which he contracted the disease. He became the first black country music superstar, with 29 No.1 hits and more than 50 songs that reached Top 10 status. Whoopi Goldberg called him “Americana personified.” Actor and bodybuilder, Keith Middlebrook, 52, who played parts in IRON MAN 2, IRON MAN 3, and THOR, has finally achieved stardom, becoming the first person in the US to be charged with a federal crime for peddling a fake cure for COVID-19 and promising big returns for investors. New film, WONDER WOMAN 1984, is soon to be released and the trailer has just come out. The original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, and current Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, will be in this movie. Thousands of French theater and cinema workers are staging a street demonstration in Paris against the prolonged closure of entertainment facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Highwomen won 3 awards at the Americana Honors and Awards and the late John Prine was given the award for Artist of the Year. Nickelodeon is scheduled to air an NFL playoff game, which will include stars like SpongeBob Squarepants running out of the tunnel and commentary from the cast of All That. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is lining up entertainment acts, including Jennifer Lopez, Cyndi Lauper, Jimmie Allen, Lucy Hale, Ciara, Billy Porter, host Ryan Seacrest, and others. Fashion mogul Peter Nygard has been arrested in Winnipeg, Canada on 9 sex crime charges involving his Bahamas estate. Although initially charged with 9 counts, authorities believe there is a decades-long pattern involving at least dozens of victims in the US. 74 additional women have joined the class-action lawsuit brought by 10 alleged victims, accusing Nygard of rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Some authorities have said that this case could be worse than the Jeffrey Epstein case. Despite the popularity of BTS and Blackpink, most K-pop bands have been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, most artists, except those well-established who can get Internet/Zoom/Facebook/Twitter audiences for remote concerts, are all struggling. Many of my entertainment friends have still not been able to get gigs, partly because their areas may be in more restrictive restaurant and gathering phases and others because restaurants and venues haven’t recouped their losses from this year enough to hire entertainment. I know many friends, especially photographers, who have no graduations, charity balls, weddings, and other public gatherings to entertain at or perform their skills at, leaving them desperate. Australian actor Craig McLachlan has been cleared by a judge of allegations he indecently assaulted his stage co-stars in 2014. Tony-winning choreographer, actress Ann Reinking has died at age 71. A federal Appeals Court has ruled that a lawsuit filed by the Michael Jackson estate over the HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, about two of the late pop star’s sex abuse accusers can go forward in private arbitration. After ABC’s Big Sky drew Native American criticism for overlooking violence against indigenous women and girls, its producers have set about making changes. DARK KNIGHT and GREASE have just been added to the National Film Registry. Justin Bieber and UK health workers have teamed up for charity song. Spy-turned-novelist, John le Carre, who probed the murky world of spies, has died at age 89. New Orleans stage and screen actor Carol Sutton has died at 76 from complications from COVID-19. Britain’s Prince William thanked pandemic workers at Christmas show in London. The leading pro-China news channel in Taiwan has been taken off air, despite employees and supporters rallying for the cable news channel on Saturday. Rapper Lil Wayne has pleaded guilty to federal weapons charge (in possession on his private plane in Miami in 2019, despite being a convicted felon). MSNBC’s election coverage star, Steve Kornacki, debuted on NBC’s Football Night in America last week and will continue to be a part of the show. Singer FKA twigs has filed a lawsuit alleging that Shia LaBeouf was physically and emotionally abusive during their relationship from 2018 to 2019. Like her mother and father, Blue Ivy Carter is now a Grammy nominee. A lone Utah Senator has blocked national museums for American Latinos and women. Former movie producer, Harvey Weinstein, will remain in a New York prison for now, after his lawyers and prosecutors agreed to postpone efforts to send him to California to face sexual assault charges. The credit card companies, Visa and Mastercard, have decided that they will no longer allow their customers to use the cards to charge for services on the pornographic website Pornhub. Concert trade publication, Pollstar, puts the total lost revenue for the live events industry in 2020 at more than $30 billion, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Award-winning South Korean director Kim Ki-duk has died in Latvia. He won the top award at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, but later faced allegations of trying to force an actress into shooting off-script sexual scenes while making another movie. Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia are expecting their 3rd child.  I am enjoying Disney+’s Mandalorian.Now I have heard the good news, despite many top series being cancelled, Netflix’s Ozark will have another season!  Blake Shelton got engaged to fellow The Voice judge Gwen Stefani over the weekend. 

Technology & Space News:

Hayabusa2 successfully returned samples collected from asteroid 162173 Ryugu to Earth.  EU has revealed its plan to regulate Big Tech, including Facebook, Google, and others. UK is planning tailored set of rules for each tech giant. Also in UK, Ofcom regulator will enforce the online harms law, and can block apps in UK or fine tech giants huge sums if it believed that they failed to protect users. More US government agencies have been hacked and the list of victims is growing. SolarWinds says about 18,000 customers may be affected. Twitter has been fined GBP 400,000 for breaking EU data law, failing to notify the regulator of its 2019 data breach within required time. COVID-19 CONTACT tracing apps can now work on older iPhones. Snapchat drug safety campaign is targeting young people. The suspected hackers tied to the Russian government who were behind a massive cyber-attack on the US also hit an American think tank in Austin, TX, according to Bloomberg. Bridgetown Holdings, the blank-check company, is reportedly considering a potential merger with Indonesia’s e-commerce giant PT Tokopedia. The technical glitches plaguing CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077 game have reduced the value of the company’s founders’ stock by $1 billion and may have shaken the image of the company. IBM bought a Canadian fintech company, which processes some $50 billion per day. Discover executive discussed in an interview that embedding payment facilities in vehicles and the increased use of voice assistants, such as Alexa, are 2 key opportunities for the payments sector. China’s Chang’e-5 Moon mission is set to return with samples of lunar rock and dust. 

US News:

President Trump has still not conceded the 11/3 Presidential Election. President-elect Biden has chosen Pete Buttigieg, the former Presidential candidate to be his Transportation Secretary. On Monday night, Biden used the moment of the Electoral College formalizing his defeat of President Trump to call for unity, according to Bloomberg.  

International News:

Nana Akufo-Addo was re-elected for a second term as President of Ghana. Zdavko Krivokapic took office as PM of Montenegro, become the first independent to hold the post. The farmers’ protest continues in India, against the 3 farm acts which were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. The acts have been described as “anti-farmer laws” by many major unions, and feel that it will leave farmers at the “mercy of corporates”. While, the government, thinks the laws will make it effortless for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers. The Tigray conflict is an ongoing military battle that began in November 2020 in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, between the Tigray Regional Government (led by the TPLF) and a military alliance between the Ethiopian National Defense Force and special forces in Afar and Amhara. The conflict stems from new PM Ahmed’s new reforms since 2018 that took away political and economic power from the TPLF, so the TPLF started defying the new orders. The TPLF had been in control for 27 years with its powerful military.  German police have made their 4th arrest over a Dresden jewelry heist. It was a spectacular theft of 18th-century jewels from a Dresden museum last year. The heist of the Green Vault which held about 4,000 objects, most from the treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony, which included a 220-lb Canadian gold coin, on loan from Berlin’s Bode Museum. A noun describing social distancing is the Dutch word of the year. It is translated into ‘one-and-a-half-meter-society.’ 2020 never ceases to surprise. Paris mayor is mocking ‘absurd’ fine for hiring too many women. Europeans are being urged to wear masks during family Christmas gatherings. Ten experts are now probing the COVID-19 origins in China’s Wuhan. 14 people were found guilty in 2015 Paris terror attacks (Charlie Hebdo magazine and Jewish supermarket) trial. Dutch prosecutors have found Trump Twitter was hacked. Apparently, Victor Gevers says that he guessed the President’s password, “MAGA2020!”. Police in Peru, disguised as Santa Claus’s and an elf, carried out a drug raid. Dozens of Armenian soldiers were “captured in a raid.” A New South Wales man has been charged with table tennis “corrupt betting.” Nigerian states have shut schools down, after pupils were abducted. An architect is rebuilding Beirut’s homes for free. A man, Jamie Rothwell, has been arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of firearms and drug offenses, and connection to Cheshire shooting. The Ugandan President has reappointed his son as head of special forces. Rights groups are calling on DR Congo to convict mass murderers. 

Florida:

For the first time since 3/15/20, nearly the start of the pandemic, I have my first singing gig this Friday. I will be performing at Zuccarellis Ristorante in West Palm Beach 12/18 6:30-8:30pm. I am doing half Elvis songs and half Christmas songs in a 28-song Elvis Christmas show.